Death or Service?
by Dr. Julie Ostrowski
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It is 1972, a six month old infant becomes sick. She is taken to the local hospital, under closer examination it is found that she has pericarditis – a condition where the sack around the heart swells, squishing the heart. Her body is failing – pneumonia soon sets in, her lungs begin to shut down and her heart beat becomes irregular.
There was no specialist in the small town where she lived. She lives an overseas country. The hospital staff arranges an emergency flight to the nearest hospital equipped to handle such a condition. Spain. Her mother is able to fly with her, but for the father, he will have to come over on another flight.
When the baby girl and the mother arrive, she is immediately surrounded by hospital staff and specialists. They take her vital signs, inject IV’s, and inquire about her first short 6 months of life – which is noted as her medical history. They roll her into an isolated room where further tests and evaluations can be made, as the mother waits outside.
Hours pass, before a doctor comes out to update the mother. He states that she is too weak for the surgery that is needed. That they will first have to stabilize her condition and treat the infection. Little hope is all that is offered.
The mother is told that she can go in to see her baby. As the mother walks toward her daughter, she is overwhelmed by the tubes running from her little body, the crown of needles around her head, the IV in her small foot and the straps that secure her little arms to the bed. She looks to be limp, barely alive.
She can do little for her but to hold her little fingers in her hand and talk softly to her. Telling her that mommy is here and that she will make it okay. As tears roll down the mothers face, she promises her little baby, that she will not leave her side.
Doctors go in an out of the room, this goes on for weeks. The mother sleeps on a cot next to her baby's bed. When it became obvious that this was going to be a long stay at the hospital, the mother calls the father and told him to come. When he arrived he was updated on the situation. Now, as the mother and father stand there, they are told by the doctor that the pneumonia is persistent, the sac around her heart is enlarging and her left lung seems to be inoperative, and now her liver is shutting down. Because the liver is not functioning properly, test show positive for hepatitis. The doctors give her only through the night at best.
A wave of sadness and shock hits the parents of this baby girl, they can barely stand. All they can do is cry and pray. The husband comforts his wife as best he can, but the daddy in him is torn, he can not do anything to save his baby girl!
Back in the states, the hometowns of the mother and father are praying. Churches across the nation are holding prayer meetings for this little baby. Calls to and from the hospital are made for updates on her condition. Prayer never ceases.
More days pass,the doctors are at a loss. Do they risk surgery – which would most likely mean immediate death – or do they hold out and wait for the infections and other sickness to stabilize, risking death before treatment? They do not know what is keeping her alive. Each day they tell the parents she will not make it through the night, and each night they make the call home (back to the states) and inform the grandparents and cousins that this looks like the end.
Days have passed, and a decision is made – the baby is stabilizing and the doctors think they should take full advantage of it. She will be scheduled for surgery a few days from now, but not here; they think it would be best to have the surgery in the States. There is a specialist at the Children’s Hospital in Portsmond. Since she is so small, they will have to go through her back to get to her heart, her chest is too swollen. Her mother and father phones every one they can think of. They will have to get special travel orders to make the trip. It has almost been three months since they first admitted their baby. They update everyone on this new development and ask them to pray.
Doctors consult other doctors on what to do. By the time the family arrives in the States, everything is set in place. It will only be a few days until the surgery. They re-evaluate the little girl and make note of her condition.
The Churches and hometowns of the parents hold special prayer services when they arrive in the States.
As the next couple of days pass, something strange happens. The little baby seems to be strengthening with every minute. The doctors call off the surgery. They want to see what directions she takes on her own. Two days later, she goes home. But she is monitored very closely and has to come to the hospital for a checkup a few times a week.
With in a few weeks of her going home, she is cured: As though nothing had ever happened. The doctors say, it was not the medicine. The staff says it was not the medicine, the parents say it was not the medicine, the churches say it was not the medicine. Even to this day, in the medical records of that baby girl, the cause of recovery is listed as unknown.
Many years later, the little girl comes to up to the mother and inquires about a memory she has and what it means. “I see people in white coming toward me, but I am a baby and I see myself screaming and crying”. Her mother pauses and remembers well what that is. “Julie,” she replies, when you were a baby you were really sick, and many doctors and nurses came to help you. But you were terrified of them, because they came with tubes, needles, masks and strange equipment; what you remember is the white clothes they wore.
I cannot not explain the memory I have. I still have it to this day: As clear as if it happened yesterday. I can’t tell you how the mind works; especially mine.
I share this story because I want others to know that before I knew God, before I was even old enough to know who God was or what He was about – He gave me a gift – I am not talking about the gift of life, I am talking about the gift of prayer. The prayers that were prayed, from so many around the world.
The only other memories I have from this experience is prayer; from the church bulletins, from the testimonies of the people who prayed for me, and from the telling of this event from family members: From the time I had met my cousins for the first time up until I got married, they referred to me as Baby Julie. (Baby Julie) is what everyone knew me as while I was in the hospital.
I know these prayers were the “medicines” that cured me. I truly believe interceding for others helps – because 30 something years, a husband, and two children later – I can tell you about it.
I will close with a verse that God has given me regarding my experience;
I hope you can visualize this verse knowing I was this baby girl laying in the hospital bed, with tubes and needles placed throughout my body:
“My health fails, my spirit droop, yet God remains! He is the strength of my heart; he is mine forever!” Psalm 73:26 TLB
I might have been diagnosed to die… but I was destined to serve…….
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