When a crisis hits you out of nowhere, what do you do next? When Guy faced nearly losing a child, he learned 13 lessons before the crisis was even over.
Sometimes in life you have experiences that profoundly and permanently change you. Experiences either solidify your existing beliefs, assumptions and expectations, or they challenge and change what you thought you knew. Some are so small you don’t even notice them. Some are larger, and every now and then you have an experience that is really life-changing.
One life-changing event that none of us want to face is nearly losing a child.
A Life-Changing Event
One experience that I think changes us more than most is when you are at risk of losing a child (and having very little influence over the outcome). As I write this, I am sitting in a hospital where I have been for ten days with my son, five of which were in intensive care. For a week we did not know if he would live or die. The doctors were extremely concerned, because they knew despite the facilities they had at their disposal, his condition could go either way.
So what do you do when you go through something like this, when you have no control? One thing I’ve tried to do is to learn what I can from it. The dust hasn’t settled yet on all this, but here are 13 lessons I’ve learnt so far.
13 Lessons From A Nearly Losing A Child
Perhaps these will help you, should you or a friend be faced with nearly losing a child or similar event:
1. Love has a price, and the deeper the love, the higher the price.
There were times in the last week when I almost wished I didn’t love my son as much as I did. I say that because I could barely stand the torture of seeing my son in immense pain and suffering, and there being nothing I could do about it. It cut me up inside to a degree I was not sure I could stand any more. But really, I had no choice. You do what you have to do, and you again realise that the value of love is very much worth the price. Real love can not be pain-free.
2. Life is precious, so treasure it.
When it comes to the frailness of life, whether by sickness, accident or some other cause, we really have very little we can presume about tomorrow. Our bodies are such an intricate machine that are amazingly designed, but how easily something can go wrong. We are not bulletproof and cannot presume we or our kids will remain healthy. Therefore, treasure each day and each moment.
3. Don’t underestimate the value of high-class medical facilities.
What a blessing it is to live within driving distance to world class medical facilities. I was told as a teenager when my appendix burst that the same event 20 or even 10 years previous would have probably proved fatal.
Today, I am so glad my child could quickly get to world-class medical facilities with highly trained doctors and nurses. It is worth considering when you start to think about moving house. Are there world-class medical facilities within your reach?
4. Recognise the importance of the support of others and allow them to help.
When a loved one’s life is at risk, everything else stops. Your priorities change in an instant, and you need others around you who can pick up the slack and fill in on your other responsibilities. If you have other children, a job or other responsibilities that need ongoing attention, then you need others who can help you out — especially if the event will last for a week or more. Care for yourself usually takes a backseat too, so friends and family who can care for you so you can care for your child are a God-send.
5. Keep your support informed.
Your support team or community needs you to keep them up-to-date with what is going on. Love for your child isn’t exclusive to you — others do too. In fact, it can be worse for them because they are not there, can’t ask the medical experts the questions you can, and will feel even less control than you. Keep your support team informed.
6. Recognise the power of prayer.
Despite the amazing advances in medicine, the highly trained doctors and nurses, the powerful drugs, there is still so much the experts don’t know and can’t fix. Medical science is really an art in many situations and still involves educated guesses.
However, there is one physician who does know every bit of our bodies and has the power to change whatever He pleases. The God of Heaven is the one who made us, and if you (or your support) are followers of Jesus Christ, then you have access to His throne room through prayer.
Prayer does not guarantee your child or loved one will have the outcome you want, but prayer does have the power to unleash what is good and bind what is evil. Use it. Be persistent, be specific and see what God does.
7. Provide your support with specific things they can pray for.
Prayer is far more powerful when it is specific, and it also helps the person praying when they have a target they can picture. Being specific also allows answers to prayer to be measured. This is encouraging and rewarding for those who can do little else but pray.
To help make praying specific, ask the doctors what the risks are and what they are looking out for, the possible complications, the areas of improvement they want to see, and include these in your updates to your community as you ask for prayer.
8. Use technology where it is really helpful
To keep my support informed, I setup group chats on two mobile phone apps — Voxer and WhatsApp. I allowed others close to me to add or invite people to those groups. On those apps I posted updates, and it meant that I could write once, copy it to one other app and not have to resend to many people.
There are probably even better ways, but this saved me tonnes of time and it also meant I got encouragement back from my support team — some of which I could share with my sick child.
9. Be an advocate for your child.
Find the middle ground between being aggressive and passive with the medical experts and the system. Your child needs an advocate, so ask questions, make requests and don’t allow your child’s rights and needs to be neglected. A hospital is a busy place where one person can be neglected for a while, and some nurses can be better than others.
During a long stay for your child, they will be looked after by a different nurse every 8-12 hours. Despite the handover procedures, this can result in a bit of a breakdown in continuity of care, during which you can fill in the gaps and ensure no mistakes are made. Get informed, know what is going on, push to have your child’s needs met. Your child needs you to stand tall for them.
10. Review what lead to the crisis honestly, but don’t over-react.
No doubt an accident or illness will cause you to stop and think about how it happened and how you could have done something to prevent it. There is no point or benefit in dwelling on past decisions. By all means, ask yourself some difficult questions to see what can be learned and broaden your awareness. However, you should wait until you and the situation is calmer and stable before making life-changing decisions.
11. Keep going one day at a time.
Even when things look bad, it isn’t over until it’s over. At the end of a bad day, try and get some sleep and wake up again ready to go again. If you can’t sleep or the crisis goes through the night, or a hospital transfer or a vigil keeps you awake, try and grab some sleep when the one you are caring for is sleeping.
You can go for a period with little sleep and worn-down energy, but to be any use again, you need to find a way and a time to recharge. This might be drawing on your support or a volunteer at the hospital to relieve you. It might be a 10-minute walk to grab your favourite takeaway (fast food) meal (mine is an Indian curry).
Take each day as best you can without worrying about tomorrow — because the day has enough for you to cope with on its own.
12. Be thankful in faith.
Be thankful when your worst fears could happen… that’s crazy! I know. It is. But I know I must find a way to be thankful for it. I don’t really know WHY to be thankful yet, but I’m trusting in faith that being thankful for my son’s illness is the best and right option, and that perhaps the reasons for that will become clearer in the future.
I don’t want to sound super spiritual and say that I’m glad this has happened, but I do have the faith that it can be an experience that will be used for good somehow if I let it. So in the meantime, I am counting the blessings, being thankful for each piece of good news, and trusting that in time I will look back and be thankful for it.
13. Don’t neglect the rest of your family.
If you have other kids, or a spouse — don’t forget about them. They will be hurting too and may not have the same skills to handle it as you do. Make sure you talk to them each individually and ask them how they are, what they fear and is there anything they need that can help them. If there is, then this may be where some of your support can step in and help.
I think in a week’s time, I might be able to add another 10 to this list… but that’s the 13 I have learned so far.
Everyone and Their Experiences are Different
We will all go through incredibly testing times in life. It does no good to compare them and to say “easy for you to say, mine is worse” or “mine is easy compared to them, so I should be stronger.” We each have to play the cards we are dealt, and everyone’s experiences will be different, and the things you learn in a crisis may be different too.
A week ago, my son was 50/50 whether he would live or die. Now the doctors — barring complications — are very confident that he will make a full recovery. In fact, his recovery is re-writing established thinking on the presentation, treatment and recovery plan for his condition. For this, I can only thank those who have prayed for him, and I thank the God of Heaven for answering their prayers.
Facing the Unknown
When you or a friend face the unknown and powerlessness of seeing a loved one like a child suffer with little you can do, I pray that you will know the comfort that is not a human comfort, but is from the God of Heaven and even possible in a horrible crisis; knowing that all things work for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.
God bless you during your trial.
Originally published at Real Men 24/7.