Around 9:00 that evening in January, I heard a noise I had never heard before. I looked up from the book I was reading, and I listened again.
What in the world is that?
The muted, gurgling sound came from my baby's room. I hurried to the other end of our apartment and rushed across the room to Ryan's crib. Ryan did not respond to my voice as his body jerked uncontrollably against his mattress. His face was a sickly white. His eyes rolled backward into his head, which cocked unnaturally to one side. I had no idea what was happening to my baby.
Crying out for Help
My husband was at work and would not be home until after 1:00 a.m. I had no car. I didn't know what to do.
"God, help me!" I cried out as I scooped up Ryan.
After an instant, which seemed an eternity, I knew what I needed to do. I ran to the apartment next door. I kicked at their door with all my might.
Gary opened the door and looked first at me, then down at Ryan's writhing body. A look of shock crossed Gary's face, and he took a step backward. "Is that your boy?"
Shel pushed past Gary, snatched Ryan from my arms, and ran down the hall. As she headed to the bathroom, with Ryan clutched to her chest, Shel hollered back to Gary, "Call an ambulance! Now!"
I was numb. Gary's question hurt. It reinforced how distorted my baby really looked. He no longer looked like my son. I felt completely helpless and out of control of Ryan's fragile life. Please, God. Help. I followed Shel into the bathroom as she filled the tub with lukewarm water. "Help me get these clothes off him."
We removed Ryan's yellow-fleece footed pajamas and his diaper. Then, ever so carefully, Shel partially submerged Ryan's still-convulsing body into the tepid water.
"My youngest brother used to have convulsive seizures a lot," Shel told me as she supported Ryan's head and body with her hands and forearms. "I watched my mom do this many times."
Ryan's blonde hair swirled around his face. His piercing blue eyes stared at the ceiling above. His tiny lips were a deathly purple. I gently ran my fingers across his round tummy. I was shocked at how hot his body felt, even in the cool water.
"He feels so hot," I said.
"The seizure is his body's way of reacting to the high fever."
"The ambulance is here!" Gary called from the front door.
Shel pulled Ryan out of the tub, and I wrapped him in a towel. Then she quickly disappeared into her son's room. Although Ryan had stopped convulsing, he was still unresponsive. Shel returned with a flannel bathrobe, which I forced onto Ryan's body.
Pleading with God
As I ran down the two flights of stairs to the waiting ambulance, I called back to Gary and Shel, "Please call my husband at work! Tell him to meet us at the hospital!"
The paramedic who stood outside the ambulance opened the back doors when he saw me approach. He placed a hand to my elbow. As I held my baby tight, the paramedic gave me a boost up. Then he jumped in after us. I sat in silence on the cold, hard bench along the right side of the dimly lit vehicle. Please, God. Please! The paramedic shut the doors and seated himself with his back to the ambulance driver.
While the eerie reflection of the flashing red emergency light pulsed through the darkness, I continued to plead with God. Please, God, help us. Ryan hasn't even learned how to walk. Or to ride a bike. There are more stories I want to read him: Winnie the Pooh. The Velveteen Rabbit. There is more I want to show him. How to color. How to catch a ball. I know where all Ryan's school pictures will go on the wall. I want to see him graduate from college. I don't want to lose him now. I want to see my baby grow up! Help him! I can't make this go away. This isn't a boo-boo I can kiss and make all better. This is my son! My only child. I feel so helpless. So very, very helpless. Please, Lord. Help him.
As I concentrated on the rhythmic throbbing of the light, I realized something was different. Something had changed. I could no longer feel my 10-month-old son's chest press into mine as he struggled to breathe.
Slowly, I lowered my baby's limp body to my lap. Eyes shut tight, Ryan's head dangled away from me at an awkward angle. His purple-tinged lips gaped apart. His pudgy little arms hung on either side of my knees. Lifeless. Like a Raggedy Andy doll.
I turned toward the paramedic who sat hunched forward, arms on his knees, hands clasped in front of him.
"He's not breathing."
As simple as that. Ryan lay lifeless in my lap. I ceased my petitions to God. In that unbelievable moment, I heard God whisper to me, "Ryan was a gift from me, Sandy. On loan to you only for as long as I choose. Let him go. Release him to me. You are not the one in control of your son's life. I am."
Those words stung worse than a slap. I. Was. Not. In. Control. But this was my son. MY son. I took a deep breath. I didn't try to hold back the tears. I let them go. I also let go of my false sense of control. I wasn't the one in control of Ryan's life. God was.
I looked down at Ryan. Okay, God. He's yours.
Before the paramedic reached across the back of the ambulance and took Ryan from my arms, Ryan's body shuddered, and he gasped for air.
I hugged my baby to my chest like I never had before. Thank you, God! Oh, thank you for giving me back my son.
At the hospital, the doctor explained I should be on the lookout for small red blemishes all over the trunk of Ryan's body and around his mouth. He suspected roseola might be the reason Ryan's temperature spiked to 105.5 degrees that evening and triggered his seizure. Several days later, Ryan broke out in red spots. Roseola. Or as I called it, "baby measles."
Ryan's febrile seizures, caused by fever spikes, continued for five years, until the month before he began kindergarten. The seizures averaged at least one every other month. They were always unexpected, always felt disturbing, and always demanded immediate attention.
Countless days I filled the bathtub and lifted Ryan's writhing body into the tepid water. As Ryan grew older, when he woke in my arms he would ask why he was naked with only a towel around him. Eventually, he began to say, "Oh, it happened again" in the same nonchalant way he would ask me what was for dinner.
God Is Faithful
During each seizure, I prayed for God's continued help to deal effectively with the emergency that was beyond my control. And God was always faithful. God gave me the presence of mind to function rationally during each frightening situation. As Ryan's body grew larger and heavier, God gave me the physical strength to lift my child into the bathtub. God gave me a peace in knowing he was in control.
Looking at Ryan today, you would never suspect he had a critical health crisis when he was 10 months old. At 6 feet tall, Ryan is not what you would call "delicate." Through the years, there have been many times when I have struggled to release Ryan to God. In those times, God has reminded me of what he told me 36 years ago, in the back of a speeding ambulance, as my unresponsive son lay in my lap: "Sandy, release Ryan to me. Let him go. Let me work in his life as I see fit. I have his, and your, best interest at heart. Never forgot, I am the one in control. Not you."
Sandy Kirby Quandt is a freelance author, wife, mother of one son, and servant of God who lives with her husband in southeast Texas. Their son lives close by. http://www.sandykirbyquandt.com
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