E’s story is one of grace after grace in her life and health. It is lots of tiny miracles strung together and the result is a little girl snuggled against my bosom preparing to fly home to her family. I wanted to record the miracles and measures of grace to remember God’s goodness to us. Had we known what laid ahead for E. and us in the weeks following her birth we would have cried out it was too much, but as each piece of her story unfolded God so faithfully brought us grace for each moment. What confidence we have walking forward into the great unknowns of the future, confidence not that God will work all things as we most desire (He can but His plans are bigger then that) but that He will bring us grace in our points of need and provide for us for each moment.
My prayer as I (we) process the trauma of these past few weeks is that we will know more of God, that He will use this time to refine our hearts to be more like His and that His glory and goodness to us will be the thing that is most evident in Eleanor’s life story. For as surprising as these weeks have been for us God has continually whispered to us that He knew our daughters story and He was writing it and that was enough because our God is writing stories for His goodness and glory. May our life stories reflect this to the world, not simply that our lives were what we expected, but that God’s goodness and grace rose up to meet us and led us through struggles and joys alike.
I’ve recorded the graces I could think of in her story in a non-eloquent manner. If you read them may you see the handprint of God in her life as we do, and be blessed to know that her story was always known by God and He prepared the way for added measures of grace in each moment.
The bright torch of God’s mercy.
One of the biggest measures of Grace arrived a little over a month before E. was born. I got a phone call from my mom. She had found a great (and I mean amazing) deal on tickets out to Kenya and wanted to come out for E.’s birth to help. It is a long journey so she decided to stay almost six weeks to assist. We were thrilled and surprised to have her come. We had no idea how much we would need her, or how perfect her timing was in staying “extra long” to help.
When we reported to the hospital we learned that I was supposed to provide a pediatrician and arrange for him to meet us there when E. was born. Instead they assigned us one from the hospital. The man assigned to us was the pulmonary (lung) pediatrician for the hospital, meaning the perfect person to be the “main Dr.” for our little girl.
On the day of E.’s birth I was wheeled up to meet her from recovery to find two very dear friends awaiting me. Ruth and Bri served with us in North Africa and are like sisters to me. Ruth is a N.P. and Bri trained as a midwife. Jon left to pickup the kids and as we all examined and enjoyed E.’s newness we began to notice some things that weren’t right. E. was grunting a lot, uninterested in eating and started turning blue. The Lord knew I needed those girls that day, not only for emotional support when Ruth rushed E. downstairs crimson blue for oxygen, but for medical help. Ruth stayed with the baby texting me updates and listening to Dr.’s and Bri stayed with me, letting me cry and be sad and then helping me be brave when the kids and Jon arrived and we had to tell them the baby was sick. Ruth was suppose to be on a flight to South Sudan but her flight had been unexpectedly canceled 2hrs earlier. Such grace.
That first night my sweet friend Nyadeng stayed at the hospital with me. We talked about normal life things, and she walked with me every 3hrs to neonatal to hold and try and nurse E. (she was so focused on breathing eating was hard but we tried!). I think the emotion of birth and my baby away from me would have overwhelmed me that first night was it not for her presence.
The next day Ruth and Bri came back. They gave me their entire day in my room, listening in at rounds and asking great questions and helping me process what the dr.s were saying, making me laugh, letting me cry as Eleanor got worse instead of better and even sharing peanut butter m and ms (a treasure over here).
The following day E. continued to get worse. I knew at her current rate of progression our time being able to hold her was ending so we had the kids come and my mom so they could see her. These moments were amazing to me. The girls gathered around me pointing to wires and tubes and we chatted about what was happening. They touched her and cooed at her and flower-girl determined what things her sister loved and instructed the NICU nurses in her care. These moments I stored in my hearts and in the coming week this “last time” of holding my baby surrounded by my girls and my mom were a special moment of peace to me.
That night I was “alone” at the hospital when the Dr. came into my room. E.’s lungs were failing and she needed more support than oxygen. Three hours later she was on CPAP in ICU and by 6am she was intubated (on a breathing machine). It was Friday morning. Praise the Lord for Stacey in the US who was up. I called crying and asking what to do and she encouraged me to get someone there to support me for the day ahead. I called my friend G. who is a doctor and she and my husband started preparing for the medical evacuation when an email came through from my friend Lesli. Lesli is a P.A. and lives close. I called her and asked her to be with me and this amazing lady, on a very busy day came. This grace to me is amazing. I needed Lesli that day. She met E. with me and sat through all the doctor’s rounds, she gave medical updates to folks for me (I was too tired and running on no sleep), she ran errands to prepare us to leave, she cried with me, she hand washed clothes for me, she reminded me to eat and drink and a myriad of other things I needed but did not have the capacity to do.
We quickly discovered to medivac E. we needed her passport and the US embassy closed at 12noon. I called my in-laws (who are amazing) and they stayed up praying for us and in 5hrs J—and his crew had not only E.’s Kenyan birth certificate ( a process that takes months) but her passport. The embassy stayed open an extra two hours to help us out and I still cry when I think of the miracle of that passport. Had she been moved onto intubation any later in the day we would have been unable to medivac until Tuesday because all the government offices would have been closed. Such grace.
My friend Bev came to the hospital and quickly left. She took all four kids and sent my mom up so she could say goodbye to the baby and me. This gift was amazing not just for me but for my mom who would spend the next two weeks in NRB with the kids.
- drove his motorbike all over NRB running errands for paperwork to help us fly, booking J—s ticket out of NRB and organizing a host of details I am not aware of.
Chris contacted SIM South Africa and arranged lodging and transport for us
Tohru came up and spent all day with J–. Running to the embassy, helping him eat etc.. Claire came up to the hospital with her newborn and holding that sweet boy was so amazing for me…when my arms were aching to hold a new life and then to be able to cry with my friend.
My OB called the US embassy to get things moving for us, my nurses cut through red tape to get documentation I needed.
When medivac called they had to clear me as they didn’t want two patients to fly. God brought such healing to my body that I was days ahead of a normal recovery and was approved to get on the jet with E.
When E.’s doctor came in for rounds Friday night he was amazed at all that had come together. We were able to clearly speak to Him the Truth that God had moved in a mighty way to part the red sea of tape and allow E. to fly out.
It was a long night at the hospital. E was struggling even on the ventilator. The transport team arrived earlier than expected and we loaded the ambulance for the airport. The team was comprised of a doctor and 2 nurses . They were amazing. They got E. stable enough to fly and we headed to the airport. The president was arriving at that time and we were delayed but only 10 minutes, when we arrived at the jet we loaded in E. and everyone quickly and were on our way. Our pilot skipped a fuel stop and pushed through landing us in record time in J-berg. Had we been 10 minutes later we would have had to land at another airport to overnight (he can only fly so many hours before a mandated break). When the plane opened the ground crew cheered, we had arrived just in time.
E.’s nurse on the flight was amazing, she got our number and called to check up, she spent time talking to me about medical care and E.s doctors and helped me process what was happening so we were ready for what laid ahead.
J—met me at the hospital and within 3 hrs E.’s cardiologist and pulmonologist were meeting with us explaining what they knew to be true and their course of action. It was hard processing all the info but Judith (a Dr.) sat with us and then over coffee explained and answered in more details questions I had. She gave us her whole day.
The doctors told us we needed to be close, so a nurse helped us locate a b and b across the street that was walking distance.
I learned we would only be able to visit E. for 2hrs and 15 minutes a day in ICU but the level of care she was giving gave me some peace as we walked out of the big door of the cardio thoractic ICU without our baby.
The first day was the hardest, not responding to treatment as planned, very frightening possibilities for her condition loomed ahead and lack of sleep and answers surrounded us.
The second day things started to look a bit better. We had a working theory that fit (and was survivable) and then we got a call from the hospital. A pastor and his wife wanted permission to pray over Eleanor. After they were done they came over to our house and prayed and talked to us. It was so amazing to be reached out to by the body of Christ.
We joined them at their home for a lovely meal and met their kids and the following day our freezer was full of meals from their chuch and a bouquet of flowers sat on our table. They had delivered exactly enough for our stay, we ate the last one our last night in J-berg. Such grace.
The next evening we got a phone call from a local woman V. She and her husband had heard of us through friends of friends and friends and were praying when she felt she should go see if they could help in any other way. We got in her car and went to her home for dinner. Words cannot describe what it meant to us to be loved in someone’s home, to interact with their kids when we were missing ours and to know we were being prayed for.
We went back for another meal a few days later, and tea a few days later. Such grace.
- was prayed for literally around the clock, when folks in our part of the world went to bed other folks in North America began praying. It was amazing.
There were so many other measures of grace, our team in NRB coming alongside my mom and helping her manage a new city and four kids, my neighbors offering support and love.
The many texts and emails of encouragement we received when we needed them most (even though we did not have the emotional capacity to respond).
E.’s rapid recovery that progressed her from intubation to room air, the families we met at CTICU that we could listen to and pray with and encourage.
Our follow up appointment where we saw 8 people in the hospital we “knew” over the course of our four hours there, some parents of patients, some of E.’s doctors and nurses, and other patients we had been with in ICU.
The gift of not worrying about our kids in Kenya because we knew how well they were loved and cared for by Grandma.
And then the grace of each of you. Your prayers that sustained.
Truly in this long rambling blog the one thing that keeps coming to mind through the tears is that these past few weeks have been hard but oh what Grace rose up to meet us, through the body of Christ. When we had reached the end of our ability to keep going God provided, again and again and again.
So we rest in His goodness as we face our unknown future. Not knowing what will come ahead but confident that Grace will rise up to meet us in those great unknowns.
We seek to empower our children, our teammates and our Sudanese friends to love and know more of who God is through acts of loving service and biblical teaching.