When your children or grandchildren are healthy, you may not think much about their health.
Sure, that’s something to be thankful for. It’s something every parent prays for: the health and happiness of their children. But in the thick of life, with diaper changes and first steps and soccer practice and homework—the idea of health isn’t something that really comes into focus—until it needs to.
So often, it’s only when a child gets sick that we become truly grateful for when they’re healthy.
Nearly nine years ago, my husband and I were in the parking lot of Children’s of Alabama Hospital in Birmingham. We hugged each other, praying together for our young son’s health before undergoing a bone marrow biopsy to determine whether or not he had leukemia.
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We lucked out that day, a day that will forever be etched in my soul as one of the scariest days of motherhood. We discovered that our son’s appallingly low platelets were linked to a relatively treatable autoimmune disease. It would be fine. He would be healthy again.
But I couldn’t help but think about that moment and have those feelings resurfaced yet again as I walked those hospital corridors last week — this time, for a different child.
My 7-year-old daughter, my bright, creative little girl who can be both sensitive and incredibly stubborn, bubbly and like a teenager in a second grader’s body, was sick.
At first we thought it was a normal gastric virus. But when she started having a fever and having difficulty walking because of her pain, my husband, who was staying at home with her, decided to take her to the doctor. The doctor, in turn of her, told us to take her to the hospital.
It was there that we discovered that our sweet girl not only had appendicitis, but that her appendix had already ruptured.
As the doctors oscillated between waiting for surgery and going weeks on IV antibiotics or taking out my appendix, I couldn’t help but feel guilty. Guilty of not being me at home with her the day she fell ill. Guilty of not seeing the signs of appendicitis. Guilty knowing that if I was home with her that day, I could continue to brush her symptoms away like just another stomach virus.
But I have to realize that I wasn’t home that day, and that’s okay, because my husband is a responsible parent. He identified that something was wrong, took her to the hospital and got her the help he desperately needed. And while our little girl is sick and will be in the hospital for over a week, we must be grateful to her doctors and nurses who are treating her and the excellent care she is receiving.
Our youngest daughter finally had the surgery she needed and we are so thankful it was a success.
She sang songs to the anesthesiology team before going into surgery, and the recovery nurse said she was the happiest patient waking up in weeks. She has been receiving video calls from her best friend, her school counselor, and plans to use Google Zoom with her class at school.
She’s had visits with a hospital therapy dog, she’s had hugs from a nurse when she screamed in pain, and people we don’t even know have left her little toys and fun activities to keep her entertained for the days in the hospital as she recovers. He had family, friends, and people she’s never even met praying for her.
When your child is sick, put his health into focus. You become grateful for the moments when they are healthy. But you also become grateful for many other things and people as well.
Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News. Reach her at [email protected]