I sat there, watching Luke’s chest rise and fall. Another bubble began creeping down the IV line towards his little hand. I slowly got up, flicked the line, and watched as the bubble disintegrated and hundreds of micro-bubbles flowed up the tube and away. This was not what I expected to be doing one month into our time in Thailand.
Several weeks before we left home in Montana, Luke got mildly sick. It wasn’t anything major, but left him with a lingering cough that came and went for the next few weeks as our lives were upended by an international move. A trip to the doctor and a round of antibiotics failed to bring much improvement.
One morning, as I was tidying up, Luke was playing happily with his train set beside me. He had been missing it and we had just recently gotten it unpacked. As I worked it suddenly dawned on me that things had gone quiet. Looking up, I saw Luke was sitting quietly on my bed. Doing nothing. How strange, I thought.
It was our first morning in an apartment that we had been offered to stay in mid-term while we searched for a rental, and I was finally getting unpacked a little and looking forward to being able to do my own cooking and stay in one location for more than a few nights. I went over and put my hand on Luke’s forehead. Immediately I knew what I needed to unpack next: the thermometer. He’d had a low-grade fever come and go several times over the last few weeks, and he had just finished a round of oral antibiotics, so when I discovered his temperature was over 103 I knew he needed more help than I could give.
Matthew booked me a Grab ride and within ten minutes Luke and I were on our way to the hospital to see a doctor that one of my missionary friends had recommended. I just prayed she would be working that day.
In the hospital we got checked in and several Thai nurses clad in lavender scrubs took Luke’s vitals. One of them slipped a thermometer under his arm, and we waited. It let out a series of staccato beeps, and I heard her draw her breath in sharply as she read it. “Oh, Momee!” She said in broken English. “High, high fever.” She pointed to the screen, and I squinted to see the numbers: 40.2C. I pulled out my phone and did the conversion: 104.4F. That’s going up fast, I thought. It had been only a half hour since I’d last checked.
The nurses administered antipyretics and one of them gestured to me and said “wipe.” Cluelessly, I picked up Luke and followed her to a small treatment room where she and another nurse stripped him down and gave him a sponge bath to lower his fever. After they were finished they motioned us to the waiting room. The doctor I had hoped to see was indeed on call, and she also happened to be a pediatric pulmonologist. I breathed a sigh of relief.
The waiting area was a large room with generous yellow chairs positioned around a large circular cushioned play mat. It was full of parents and children, and I could feel their curious eyes following us as we sat down to wait with them. A few children rolled and played on the mat, others sat lethargically, and two or three were hooked up to IV’s. Luke sat listlessly watching everything happening around him.
We spent the rest of the day getting shuffled between the waiting room, the doctor’s office, and one test after another. Luke was so sick he didn’t complain when everyone, including me, had to leave the room for his chest x-ray or give much more than a little whimper when nurses wrapped him tightly and inserted his IV.
Finally, I texted Matthew: “All the tests are back. Dengue test was negative. Urine test was negative. His bloodwork indicated that he has a bacterial infection and the chest X-ray shows bilateral pneumonia. The doctor decided to admit him for a couple of days so they can do nebulizer treatments, percussion treatments, and IV antibiotics. We are just waiting for a room to open up.”
Finally a room became available and we both crashed on the cot placed on the floor for us. Before laying down, I wrote a short entry on the day:
It’s been a hard day for this little one. He was so brave through all the new treatments and feeling so bad. 104.4 fever. Getting rubbed down three times with cool cloths and getting so cold he shivered visibly. Having to stand all alone in a big room, watching the huge door close leaving his mommy outside as he got his chest X-ray. First nebulizer treatment with the loud hissing machine that made him nervous. Getting wrapped up like a mummy and getting a needle stuck in his hand… But through it all he didn’t cry once except a little bit of quivering lips when they connected the IV to his port.
Then when we got to the hospital room and I started tucking him in bed he looked up at me with big round eyes and said, “Mommy stay wif Lukie?” Unhesitatingly I said, “Yes, Mommy stay with Lukie.” And to myself I thought, there’s absolutely no way I’m leaving you right now, sweet boy.
Suddenly my mind was elsewhere. My heart reached out to my Heavenly Father and I heard myself plead, “Stay with me?” And I knew His answer. By experience. Because it was the same answer I had given my child two seconds before. “Yes, of course I’m staying with you,” I heard Him say. “There’s absolutely no way I’m leaving you right now.” He had been watching me all day. And I knew that He wasn’t planning on leaving me anytime soon.
The next few nights and days are a blur for me, filled with round-the-clock temperature and oxygen tests, fever medications, and cool showers as his fever continued to remain high and his oxygen levels dipped. Eventually he began to improve, and my nightly preoccupation shifted from monitoring his breathing, to ensuring he didn’t get tangled in his IV line as he became more mobile.
We are so grateful to God that, in spite of very poor air quality here in Chiang Mai due to seasonal burning, Luke has made a complete recovery and is back to his energetic, train-obsessed little self. I am also thankful for the glimpse that I got of God’s heart that night as I heard my child plead for me not to leave him. It is a picture that will remain with me for life. Yes, our Father’s promise is true: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Joshua 1:5