My eighteen month old son heaved again and pleaded with me with eyes glazed by confusion and pain. I wiped his face with damp paper towel and tried to mop the front of his jacket and t-shirt.
God, help me.
We were sitting in a boarding gate at the San Francisco airport, waiting for our early morning flight home to northern Canada. While vacationing with our family in the States, our little son, Matthew, had gone into a coma and been diagnosed with diabetes. He and I had spent much of the last two weeks in Intensive Care, and then the night before our departure, Matthew had become ill with the stomach flu. We were already exhausted and had a full day of flying ahead of us.
“I’ll try to find a restaurant,” said my husband Eric. “I’ll get him some dry toast or crackers.”
As Eric left, I pulled off Matthew’s sopping jacket and saw with dismay that his trousers were also soaked, and it wasn’t vomit. He whined as I pulled a diaper and a clean outfit from our carryon bag. I cleaned him up as best as possible, wondering if I should check his blood sugar again.
I looked at four-year old Brendan who, up until that moment, had been sitting quietly. I was appalled to see that the front of his jacket was crimson with flowing blood; Brendan had a nosebleed.
I set Matthew down and rummaged through the carryon for a tissue. Finding a crumpled one, I held it to Brendan’s nose, but it was useless against the flow and was soon saturated.
Matthew began to cry, and looking back at him, I was horrified to see that he was sick again. I reached over with my free hand to hold him while he brought up again, this time over my hand and sleeve.
I need help!
Suddenly, a man walked into the gate and approached us. Without a word, he picked up Brendan, whose nose was still streaming red. The man looked at me with liquid brown eyes that beckoned me to follow. I picked up Matthew and slung the carryon bag over my shoulder. It didn’t occur to me to question the man or my action. I was just relieved to have help.
He must be an angel.
The man led us up a flight of stairs, then along a narrow walkway overlooking the gate where we had been sitting. He opened a door and held it while I went through. A restroom!
I sat Matthew on the counter and began to strip off his clothes. Further down the counter, the man was holding a cold, wet cloth to the nape of Brendan’s neck. Brendan was staring intently, totally fascinated, nosebleed forgotten.
Within a few minutes, both boys were clean and dry. Each one had been given a sponge bath and been completely redressed. The soiled clothing was rinsed, packaged in a plastic bag, and pushed to the bottom of the carryon. I changed my shirt, washed my face and hands.
The nosebleed had quit and so had the vomiting. For the moment, all was well.
Picking up Brendan, the man led the way back to the boarding gate. He set Brendan down and touched his head briefly. With the same gesture of benediction, he laid his hand on Matthew’s head. Then, just as suddenly as he had arrived, our angel left. He had not spoken a single word.
I was still dazed when Eric returned with two pieces of dry toast for Matthew.
Our flight was called and we boarded. As we taxied down the runway, I wondered how we were ever going to make it through the day. I had no more clean clothes for either boy, no emergency food, no juice. I was still floundering with how to care for a diabetic child, let alone one with the flu.
God, I still need help.
And the day passed without incident. Both boys slept through three flights and a two hour drive home on icy roads.
As I stood by Brendan’s bed late that night, he mumbled sleepily, “That feels good, Mommy.”
“What feels good, sweetie?”
“Your hand on my forehead.”
My hand wasn’t near him.
Was that a faint rustle of wings?
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