It’s been two whole months since my son made his dramatic and premature entrance into this world. It’s hard to believe time can pass so quickly –that the little 3lb. 10oz. boy in the NICU is now a 9 pound “newborn” according to his adjusted age. As days have turned into weeks, and weeks into months though, nothing has struck me more profoundly than the amount of prayer that went up on our behalf. I know this because not one single day has passed where a person hasn’t walked up to me, or called me, or sent a card, or texted me and said, “We were praying for that little boy.” “Our church sent up a lot of prayers for you and that little one.” “You two were saturated in prayer.” “We requested prayer for you at every service.” “We prayed a great deal for your family.” “You guys are an answer to prayer.” “Ya’ll are a miracle.”
I’m not sure how to explain it, but it’s a humbling thing.
When we went to the Emergency Room on May 4th, I desperately wanted to conceal it from the world. I did not want to go in to begin with. I tried to talk myself into believing the chest pains were just heartburn, and that Zane had gone days before without moving and he was always fine when they checked on him. And even though my blood pressure was high, I was told by a friend in the medical field that it wasn’t necessarily dangerous.
It was no secret that I had had a rough time throughout the entire pregnancy. At 6 weeks the onset of unfathomable pain in my head coupled with ceaseless and violent vomiting led to a week in the hospital and forced us to share our happy little news before we intended to, so people could pray for both Zane and I.
For the next four weeks I endured a pain so horrific that the knowledge that it can exist on this earth still makes me feel emotionally numb. Many nights I would crawl in circles, dragging my head on the floor while I prayed desperately for it to go away. I could feel enormous pressure in my skull. It never left. Even strong medications couldn’t touch it. If I opened my eyes, the information being sent to my brain triggered the most severe reactions. My brain would convulse, and I would vomit uncontrollably. My vision would distort as though I was looking in a fun house mirror. The world appeared to move sideways, like it was sliding past me on a conveyor belt. I lost sensory and cognitive functions. I could not do effort-required thinking. A simple question like “Where are the keys?” triggered an episode. I could not navigate or listen to a person talk. My vision began a rapid deterioration, which continued throughout the pregnancy. I was so weak I could not lift a hairbrush to my head. Mark had to do everything for me. Bathe me, dress me, brush my hair… I developed an excruciating stiffness in my neck that continued for months. All of this and doctors could do nothing for me. Some were trying to protect the baby. Many saw me as a liability and wanted me out of their office as quickly as they could manage it. The problem, though it was obviously severe and serious, was a mystery. All kinds of theories were presented from the cyst behind my eye to an extreme immune response to pregnancy. Maybe it was an infection or a massive hormonal imbalance. It was terrifying to be experiencing these things without knowing what was causing it and how long I would live with it. I felt so powerless, and even though I prayed with everything within me for healing, I desperately requested prayer from anyone I knew, trying my best to convey the severity so my friends would understand the urgency.
After that first 4 weeks, the pain dramatically reduced itself from severe to moderate. Gradually, the neurological symptoms dissipated and I recovered at an agonizingly slow pace. Other than doctor’s appointments, I did not leave the house for 2 and half months. I slept 80% of the time during that period. I did not see improvement day by day, but did notice tiny bits from week to week. Anything that required effort though, whether it was going to an appointment or trying to do the slightest bit of housework, would thrust me back in progress by several weeks.
By mid-January, I was able to return to work, but I still could only last until about 10:00AM before I had to sleep. Gradually, I could make it to 11AM, and then Noon. In February imaging was done, and there were noteworthy findings that started getting things on the right track. There had been blood loss to various areas of the brain, veins appeared constricted. The doctors confirmed Pseudo-Tumor Cerebri, (build-up of fluid on the brain), which explained the continual moderate pain, but could not treat it while I was pregnant. My university neurologist believed what I experienced was a rare type of stroke called a CVST, but the type of imaging required to verify it could not be performed until after I delivered our baby.
By March I had spent 5 months of my pregnancy with a never-ending headache that felt like a dog was chewing on my brain, and blurring vision that continued to get worse, until one eye was entirely affected, and the other was half affected. Sometime around this point though, I felt a little popping in my brain, followed by the same popping in my chest milliseconds later. It caused some pain, made me short of breath for a few moments, and then, passed, taking the constant head pain with it.
Somewhere in those months I stopped making prayer requests for the scary array of symptoms I was experiencing. I worried that I was getting annoying. Maybe even inviting judgment. Some had even verbally suggested that I wasn’t really sick. To be honest, this allegation felt like someone punched me in the gut- I had endured a malfunction in my brain so severe that it left me traumatized… but someone believed it was nothing. Or they thought it was just a “headache” or just a “migraine” and was therefore not a big deal. And because the problems weren’t quickly validated with answers that I could simply hand to people, I just kind of closed up. I began keeping it all to myself. When the head pain returned a couple weeks later, I just hung my head and walked forward silently. When my vision got so bad that I couldn’t make out faces of people 10 feet away, I just… kept quiet.
What seemed very unfortunate to me, was that this particular trip to the ER, was on a church night, which meant our absence was going to alert everyone. As the clocked ticked toward the start of service, I sat in the hospital bed feeling mortified that people were going to know I went to the hospital again. Mark was typing out a message to the Pastor to tell him we wouldn’t be there and I was shriveling in humiliation. It was a nurse rushing in that got my mind off the text. She explained my son wasn’t moving and gently informed us that this was very abnormal, so she used a device to try to stimulate him. There was no response. I knew then that my son was going to be delivered that night. After a biophysical profile showing that Zane was not even making breathing motions and his heartrate was dropping, I was ambulanced to a city hospital that was equipped to deliver small babies.
When I arrived I wasn’t there long when a dozen people flooded my room, each preparing something for an emergency C-Section. I was whisked back to the operating room, where the doctors worked very quietly and I wondered if they were trying to conceal grave news from me, but within minutes I heard the tiniest little cry –a little moan that sounded like a newborn kitten. They paused long enough to hold my little boy up for me to see from across the room –he looked directly into my eyes and his little hand flexed open and shut as if he was waving goodbye. He was off to the NICU where he spent the first month of his life while they nursed him to health and strength.
I spent a few days recovering in the hospital and was discharged on Mother’s Day. I was thrilled to be done with doctors and hospitals, but when I arrived home, I still didn’t feel right. I knew something was seriously wrong. My heart would jump and bounce and skip and pound and race and slow. I felt like I would pass out several times. I thought maybe this was normal for post-surgery. And then it happened again.
That horrific, unparalleled pain returned to my head. So strong and so severe… this time I passed out. I became delusional and I was certain I was dying. I felt pressure building up so strong inside of my head and I knew something was about to erupt. Night after night it kept happening but I kept trying to tough it out trying my best to avoid yet another ER visit.
It was while visiting Zane in the NICU that one of the nurses told Mark to have a nurse check my blood pressure. When we got there, my blood pressure was in the 180s/110s. The head pain erupted again while I was waiting. They gave me some strong medicine that took care of it, ran some tests, and discovered I had post pregnancy pre-eclampsia. I was given magnesium sulfate and had a severe reaction to it. My heartrate skyrocketed, I was incoherent and breaking out in hives, my throat and eyes were swelling shut and I could not breathe. They decided to quit treating the preeclampsia, but proceeded with imaging for the head pain.That was when we got our answer.
The hospitalist came in the room and informed us that I had a rare type of blood clot in my brain- the CVST stroke was confirmed. After the team of doctors collected my records and previous images, I was told it had been there all alongIt was present in the very first imaging, but overlooked because a neurologist never saw them. He had taken the word of the radiologist who had. For the past several months, I had been living through a stroke… surviving, recovering, and pushing forward without any medical help. The clot had been the cause of the pseudo-tumor cerebri and the neurological symptoms I had experienced, and the blood loss seen previously. I was quickly given a blood transfusion, placed on a heparin drip, and slowly transitioned to Coumadin. On one occasion my heart flew into the 200s and I began having brain hemorraghe symptoms. A team of doctors rushed into the room, all surrounding me and checking vitals, and asking me to explain what I was feeling- All that came out was incoherent slurring words. I heard a doctor tell another physician very quietly that most people die from this, especially when it has gone untreated. Only 3-4 people out of a million are diagnosed with this type of clot and stroke every year, and only 20% of those diagnosed with it live. For many, it isn’t even found until after they’ve died. There were moments when I wondered if I was going to experience the joys of raising my son- if I was going to leave behind a widowed husband with a baby in the NICU. I had already gone well past my odds by having this clot present for so long, and at this point, it seemed like stability was unravelling. Mark got a bunch of people praying as quickly as he could, and within minutes all of the symptoms of a secondary hemorraghic stroke began reversing themselves.
It wasn’t until after I got out of the hospital that the sheer magnitude of prayer sent up became apparent to me. For this entire pregnancy, I was carried in prayer. When I was in so much pain I could not have strung 3 words together, people were taking me to the Lord. I am alive because God answered. My husband still has his wife, and my son still has his mother, because countless people bombarded heaven for us. Mark and I have the peace of God in spite of a dangerous lingering blood clot because friends, family, complete strangers prayed that God would grant it. My boy survived Mama’s condition, and then raced through the NICU faster than most babies because people prayed for him.
It’s obvious, looking back that there were several points where circumstances seemed like they might rip our little baby from us. I could have died myself at any point. How easily it could have happened! Every throb of pain in my head from October forward was a warning of imminent danger. Zane could have easily been killed or seriously injured by the medications and tests in the beginning. He could have been lost as my body fought to overcome this mysterious problem. On May 4th, he was almost gone. If facts could have had their way, and circumstances had the power to prevail, the story could have ended with untold devastation…
But someone made a prayer request. Someone got the word out. Someone got the saints praying. I don’t know how word got around like it did. Different ones heard and got their circles praying. And the curtain keeps drawing back, revealing that we were held up before the throne of God by hundreds of people in churches all across America. People paced the floors in prayer into the wee hours for us. Services were interrupted several times just for prayer on our behalf. Students spent the night in the prayer room. Friends faithfully raised their hands to request prayer for my healing and my son’s protection, week after week.
When I look at my son, I realize that I have been entrusted with a tiny life who is a miraculous answer to the prayers of hundreds. I think of all those people, and recognize that this baby boy is a tangible and direct answer to their prayers. When he is introduced to each person, Mark or I gently pass him into their arms so they can hold their miracle. The baby they sought God for with us. The baby they stormed heaven for protection over. The baby that reminds us of the vast miracles God has done in our entire family. This little baby is God’s mighty act. A work of His hands that reinforces their faith in the power of prayer, and the benevolence of God to hear their petitions. He’s a living proof that God heard them.
I feel such a deep sense of gratitude and indebtedness. An urgency to bear up my brothers and sisters for whatever needs they may have in their own lives. To give back in prayer what was given up for me. To listen intently to the prayer requests given and to take each one seriously, because they are my brothers and sisters in the Lord. I know now that a prayer request is never a burden to the true children of God, and I should never feel ashamed of making one. The important thing is calling out, asking for help when you need it, whenever you need it, as much as you need it. Calling on your brothers and sisters in Christ for “all hands on deck” at the throne room of grace.
When all is said and done, and God moves, the faith of many is lifted up because they’ve been a part of someone’s miracle.
This time, it was ours.
So with deepest, heartfelt appreciation, thank you for praying. Mark, Zane & I -we are eternally grateful.
Love and Prayers,