Shortly after Jakes first birthday came the day that our world and life as we knew it, and hoped for it to be, was forever changed. I was at work and Kim had placed Jake into a backpack carrier and had headed out the door to walk to her sister’s house just three blocks away.
When she arrived, Kim’s father noticed that Jake was sleeping and asked why his lips looked blue. Kim immediately in a mother’s panic turned to Jake to see him unresponsive, unconscious and not breathing. The nurse in her took over instinctively with choking drills and CPR. An ambulance was called and Jake was transported to the hospital. He came in and out of consciousness during this time but would continue to stop breathing, turning blue and appearing lifeless.
I received a call from 911 and rushed to the hospital in my police cruiser with lights and sirens blaring. After being stabilized and medicated, Jake was admitted to the pediatric unit for observation and testing. Kim, having an extensive medical background, knew exactly what it was. The doctors affirmed her diagnosis when they told us that Jake was suffering from apnea related seizures.
One minute he would be fine and then the next minute he would stop breathing, go limp, turn blue, stiffen out and then wake up again crying. There was absolutely nothing we could do to get him to breathe during the course of the seizure. It just had to run its course. In the hospital he was sedated and hooked up to every tube, wire, cord and machine imaginable. But even with all the medical technology available, the doctors still could not tell us what was causing the seizures or how they could be stopped.
They finally sent us home with a monitor to watch his heart rate and breathing along with some seizure medicine to hopefully control the seizures. For many nights thereafter we would be awakened in the middle of the night by the shrill sound of the breathing monitor (sounding something like a household smoke detector). Jumping out of bed from a deep sleep, we would run into his room, look into his crib and find Jake lifeless and blue as if he were dead.
It was a taxing time in our lives to say the least. The lack of sleep, stress of work and the distress of uncertainty eventually took its toll in breaking us down physically, mentally and emotionally. Even now as I look back I can feel the tightness in my chest and the pain of disappointment, hopelessness and stress. Kim and I were so young and the whole parenting role just kind of fell into our laps. We didn’t know what to expect. But we never expected this. We were both working opposite shifts in order that one of us could be home at all times. We were passing each other in the doorway with a glancing hug or kiss, too exhausted to make much sense out of anything. We loved this little boy so much and we were doing all we could to give him what he needed, but we felt so helpless.
Over the next year the seizures progressed along with our mental fatigue and growing hopelessness. We took Jake to every doctor and specialist we could find, in and out of hospitals and doctor’s offices. With every visit came a new drug, a new solution with anticipation followed by faded hope as the seizures continued. By this time Jake was in a perpetual stated of stupor. From the seizures to the drugs given to control the seizures, his happy, bubbly personality sunk to a dazed lethargic existence.
It was sometime in the midst of this dark season that we both came to the end of our rope and the bottom of our strength. And it was here in this pitch black pit of desperation that God showed up. Actually, we found out that He had been there all along patiently pursuing us with His enduring love. We both considered ourselves to be Christians at the time but there was little evidence to our professed faith.
We discovered that there is a time and place where faith is tested and made evident. Few comfortable, stable people find that place. It is reserved for those who truly come to the end of themselves and find that the hole in their soul stuffed with every solution the world has to offer can only be satisfied with the One thing that it was created for. Like the Apostle Paul we later understood that, “Indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead.”
From that point forward we approached life and our son’s illness with faith and hope, not that God would miraculously heal Jake, although we prayed He would, but more importantly that God would be our strength through this life He had so mysteriously planned for us. We were chosen by God for what appeared to be a lifelong mission. It was not our tragedy, it was our calling.