The rain comes down in torrents as if God is flinging fistfuls from Heaven. The August humidity clings to me like Saran Wrap as I load the pressure cooker with jars of tomatoes, squash, and carrots, the process of making baby food. The washing machine’s belly is full of clothes and in the midst of these household activities; I keep my eyes upon my seven-month-old baby girl, McKenna, as she swings in her swing.
The past few months I have noticed that McKenna has had slow weight gain. It concerns me, but whenever I bring this up to her doctor he just blows it off by saying, “she is going to be small, like you. Nothing is wrong with her, you are just an anxious new mom.”
I have a gnawing dread that we are missing something with her, something major. I try to shake this off, but like a pesky fly, it keeps coming back.
I look at McKenna closely; her brown eyes are alert and filled with intelligence, her rosy cheeks round and full, like a chipmunk, and her carrot red hair stands straight up, as if I have spiked it. To all appearances she looks totally healthy.
I walk down the hall to the laundry room, but on the way I hear the words, “Cystic Fibrosis” in my spirit. I walk back to the den and pull my Pediatric textbook from the bookcase. I turn to Cystic Fibrosis and begin to read the signs and symptoms of this incurable genetic disease. They stand out on the page as if magnified, ravenous appetite, failure to thrive, diarrhea, frequent upper or lower respiratory infections. She has not been sick, but she has displayed some of the early signs. I literally fall to my knees and feel as if all the blood in my body has drained out. My mouth shapes the words “Oh God, please no”, but in my spirit I know it’s true. Time seems suspended as if held captive by unseen forces.
I don’t wait for Wes, my husband, to come home before acting on this revelation. I call the doctor’s office right away. The receptionist gives me the last appointment of the day.
The next couple of hours are torturous as I rehearse what I am going to say without sounding like a loon. I know Dr. Printer has heard my concerns many times but now I have a label for what I feel is wrong.
I scoop up McKenna and head out the door; the air inside my chest is viscous with fear.
When we arrive at the office; the coolness of the empty waiting room is refreshing. After signing in the receptionist informs me that Dr. Printer’s associate will talk with me. I feel betrayed.
Dr. Garner is a good listener; I babble on about what I perceive to be wrong with McKenna. I attempt to explain why I feel the need for a sweat test now. I say that she is going to be really sick. I have no idea why I say this. He checks McKenna carefully, and agrees to run a sweat test at her 9-month check up, but he did not think anything was remiss.
I leave carrying a backpack of dread. One week later, to the day of seeing Dr. Garner, McKenna began to run a high fever and in a matter of hours she was in respiratory distress necessitating an ER visit. After chest x-rays it was determined that she had bilateral pneumonia and was admitted.
I watch my baby girl as she struggles to breathe in her oxygen tent while an IV in her small foot infuses fluids. Everything seems surreal. The next two days she is unresponsive to treatment and finally the sweat test is ordered.
As I wait for the results I walk around the hospital campus, I hear birds chirping, the breeze rustles leaves on the trees and I ponder if McKenna will live to see the ocean, graduate from high school, go to college, marry and have kids of her own? I pray and I ask for wisdom in caring for this gift that God has given us.
The results came back positive. The next twenty-eight days in the hospital were a turning point in all of our lives. I could not change things for McKenna. Our journey was amazing and I am grateful to have loved her; she was a precious child.
God spoke and I had an ear to hear.
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