Peace that Passes Understanding
We were expecting our second child in 2012. My pregnancy had been pretty smooth, with the exception of placenta previa early on that corrected itself by 36 weeks. Everything was set up for a smooth normal delivery. I tend to “over bake” my babies and not go into labor on my own. At 41 weeks, a long miserable week overdue, my doctor decided to schedule me to induce my labor.
Although we were incredibly excited about having our baby boy, the whole pregnancy seemed kind of surreal to me. Even though I could feel him moving around inside me, see him on the ultrasound and already loved him more than words, I just really had a hard time believing we would actually be bringing home a new baby. We actually decided on a name on our way to the hospital. We had planned the whole time to name him Ryder, but just didn’t feel so sure about it. Then in the car on the way, we decided to name him Silas. They started inducing my labor when I was 9 days overdue. Everything went incredibly smooth and contractions had started pretty steady. I hadn’t even had any medication yet, and I was truly enjoying the fact that everything was so easy. Little did I know that God had been preparing me for what would come. He had made my heart ready for any outcome and gave me complete peace that no matter what happened, He was in control. At that time, we had no idea anything would go wrong. At 8AM the next morning, my doctor came in to break my water. Then Silas’ heart started to decelerate. After prolonged deceleration (slowing down) of his heart, my doctor herself performed an ultrasound. She could tell that there was little amniotic fluid and he was in distress. They rushed me into emergency surgery to delivery him via C-section. Silas was delivered only 11 minutes later.
The nursing staff had said repeatedly that we would be able to see him on the screen beside us when he was born. This did not happen. He was born with a heartbeat, a very weak one, and failed to breathe on his own even after stimulation. After one minute of life, they started CPR and intubated him. This continued for four minutes. While this was happening, Evan and I, without speaking, just knew that Silas was not alive. The nurses had stopped telling us we would get to see him and we could hear the commotion from the other side of the room. I recall them calling “Code APGAR” and lots of other staff running into the room. The neonatologists were called down from the NICU. You may be feeling sorry for us, for Silas, or for our situation. Stop! This was the calmest time in either of our lives. For us, God had us right in the eye of the storm. Complete peace came over us in our own little bubble it seemed. Any mother would say that it is crazy for any parent to feel that way when you expect your newborn is dead. I know for sure that this was an exact demonstration of Philippians 4:7.
7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (KJV)
At that exact moment in time, Evan and I could go nowhere, do nothing. We were exactly where God wanted us, perfectly in His will and He was going to use us for His own glory. I would not change any single thing that we would have to go through, and Evan and I have stated before that we would go through it again to have that closeness with God. Many people think that maybe we aren’t very good parents since we weren’t worried. We love our children just as much or more than any other parents do. What I want you to understand is that it completely goes against any human understanding that two parents could be this calm and comforted at such a hectic, emotional time. ONLY GOD could supply that peace that passes understanding! We in no way deserved His presence or grace during this time. No doubt we could never do anything to earn it or deserve it, but He loves us anyway. He is that awesome!
Over the next series of posts I will explain all the miracles that God performed in Silas’ medical journey. I apologize for being so lengthy, but this was a period of time in our lives when we walked closer to God than we ever had before (or since). Please take with you today, from this brief introduction, that God is the Almighty Comforter. He is ALWAYS in control of every scenario in our lives and will be there for us no matter the occasion supplying us enough grace to make it through. He ONLY can provide the peace that passes understanding, as you will see many more times through the next several posts. So friend, rely not on any understanding, rely only on the Lord Jesus Christ.
The First Three Days
Silas was born very pale, cyanotic, limp and not breathing. He did have a heartbeat until one minute of life when it became very faint and weak requiring them to start compressions. He was intubated so that they could breathe for him since he failed to breathe on his own even after stimulation. They regained a heartbeat after four minutes. When you have a baby, you expect a cry. We heard chaos, alarms, and silence. No crying.
Silas was then rushed up to the NICU, and Evan went with him. They did carry him by me so that I could see him before they took him. He was completely lifeless, tubes coming out of every orifice, and a nurse was breathing for him by squeezing a bag. Without God’s grace, I would have been a complete emotional wreck from this point on. But God set down his grace and peace upon me and Evan throughout this entire ordeal, enabling us to see His hand at work in our lives in a way that we had never experienced before. After Silas was taken out of the operating room, my procedure continued. A few minutes later, my doctor (the most amazing and admirable doctor ever) suggested that we pray for Silas. Now I know you’ve all seen the Facebook posts of a picture of an entire surgery staff praying over the bed of a patient, and may find it hard to believe in real life, but this is exactly what happened. Everyone in that room stopped what they were doing, mid-surgery, and we prayed. Well, let’s say that they prayed, because I was so humbled and overwhelmed by God’s presence that I couldn’t be sure how much praying I actually got done through my tears.
I was taken to recovery after surgery, and my same amazing doctor had brought my phone down to me from our original room. By this point, my Mom had made it to the hospital and came back to sit with me, well…stand with me. Evan called and all he said was, “I’m coming down to talk to you.” I asked how Silas was and he said “I’ll talk to you about it when I get there.” Honestly, I had the feeling that Silas was not alive. Like I stated in the previous post, God had prepared my heart for what would happen. I honestly had thought several times during my pregnancy that I wouldn’t be bringing home a baby. I had no logical reason to think this, but I thought it nonetheless. So when Evan called this first time, I was already prepared to hear that we had lost the baby. I was worried about how Evan would be taking it. I had never discussed the feelings I’d had with anyone before, because I felt guilty for thinking something so bad might happen. When Evan and our pastor got back to recovery with me, I was completely in shock when they told me Silas was alive. Evan explained that he had lost a lot of blood and the doctors believed he had also went an unknown period of time without getting enough blood and oxygen to the brain. We later found out this was diagnosed as hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy. As you may know, babies are give APGAR scores at 1 minute of life, 5 minutes and 10 minutes. These are scores on a scale of 0-10 based on criteria such as heart rate, respiratory effort, color, reflexes, and muscle tone. Silas’ scores were 2,1 and 4. Although these scores are not a predictor of any outcome, they may help you put into perspective his condition at the time. We were given absolutely no predictions or indications at all of what to expect the outcome to be. The doctors prepared us for the worst. Little did they know, God had already prepared our hearts for what would come.
Silas underwent hypothermic treatment for his brain injury for the first 72 hours of his life. They kept his body around 32 degrees Celsius, (about 91-92 degrees Fahrenheit). The purpose of this treatment is to slow all the body processes down dramatically so that the brain can heal and to reduce any swelling or damage that may have occurred initially.
Let me share here some statistics of cases similar to Silas’. According to the World Health Organization, 0.5-1 infants per 1000 live births have moderate to severe perinatal asphyxia developing into brain damage in the form of HIE. About 60% of these infants die. Out of the surviving 40%, another 25% are left with a severe handicap. It would be safe to say that there are very, very few infants that go through this and come out normal. In fact, it is recommended that any survivors be followed closely by several specialists and therapists all throughout childhood because of the likelihood that they may develop a handicap or developmental issue.
During these first 72 hours, Evan and I met with the nurses and doctors regularly. It was the same over and over, “wait and see”. There was truly no one except God that had any idea what the outcome would be. But then again, in any situation in life, God is the ONLY one who knows the outcome before it happens. Even doctors, therapists, family, friends, scientists, or even pastors can never truly know what the future holds for any of us. We may die this next second. Before you read the next sentence, you may die. So this “wait and see” that we were told so many times is really relevant to all of us at any given moment.
However, explaining to our family that the doctors didn’t know what would happen didn’t prove to be easy. The hardest part was repeatedly telling the many concerned family and friends that we didn’t know anything at all. He was alive at the moment and that’s all we could say. His blood pressure was very low (40s/20s), he had to get several blood transfusions, plasma transfusions and platelets because of the blood he had lost. He had numerous seizures that required resuscitation afterward to get him stable again. His kidneys completely shut down for 5 days. His heart had several issues on the first ECHO, including a large PDA, diminished function of the right ventricle and some other thick/thin issues in different areas. His EEG was abnormal and showed disorganization that warranted concern. In retrospect, I don’t think many of these details were shared with everyone at the time, and most will be reading them here for the first time. We were so comforted and at peace that God was in control no matter what would happen, that we didn’t even know many of these details ourselves. To us, none of this mattered. It was all just numbers and data that we would have filled our heads with. God had us completely at rest in Him so we honestly didn’t even think to ask many of these questions. We had no reason at all to know them, God knew them and He was in control of them.
Multiple times, the scripture Romans 8:28 was brought to my mind.
“For we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called according to his purpose.” KJV
One night the Lord even woke me in the middle of the night, with this scripture in my head. His gentle reminder that He was using my life for His glory!
In the next post, I’ll share some of the specific prayers that were answered during this period of time. You will see that God can and will answer prayers in miraculous ways, even down to the tiniest detail.
Miracles within the Miracle
Our son, Silas, was born at 41 weeks 3 days gestation via emergency C-section. He was diagnosed with hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), which means in a nutshell that he went an unknown period of time with a lack of blood and oxygen to the brain. If you haven’t already, read the first two posts! He underwent therapeutic hypothermia for the first 72 hours of his life. His body temperature was kept around 90-91 degrees. Everything was an unknown. No prediction on what the outcome would be. It was a day by day, minute by minute medical journey. During this time, we were completely at peace in the Lord’s arms and He used us and our situation multiple times for His glory. I take absolutely no credit at all for anything that happened. We could not have changed a single thing even if we would have tried, and never could have made it through without His grace.
Before we went into the hospital, our bank account balance was about $45. That’s it. One account. No credit cards. No savings. A couple of days after Silas was born, my husband Evan left the hospital to come back home to take care of some financial things. We had realized it was going to be a long stay in the hospital and without knowing what the outcome may be, possibly a life changing experience when we got released. Although time was standing still for us, life was passing by. Bills were coming due, and Evan was having to miss work which meant no money would be coming in. We had no other means of income. Evan left the hospital that day to go to his work and see if there was some way they could approve the time he needed off so that he could keep his job. He had been gone for less than a half an hour when a lady came into my hospital room. She was a social worker that had been assigned to our case and she brought in a FMLA application. She had even already filled it out with all the necessary information, needing only Evan’s signature. Through joyous and grateful tears I called Evan to say he could just come back because God had already taken care of it! This was one of many answered prayers during this time. Another example of God’s “financial plan” for His children. Evan also got the paycheck for what he had worked up until that day, and it was almost exactly the amount we needed for the bills that were due. The Lord will always provide!
After the third day of Silas’ cooling treatment, they started to rewarm him, a process that happened over time. The nursing staff made sure we were aware that this would be an unpredictable time. Silas could never wake up. He could stay alive but with no other function. He could have a severe disability or disease. In fact, the social worker had already prepared all the necessary forms to apply for his disability. While he was still being warmed, we came to visit. Silas had been breathing on his own and they had removed his ventilator. His nurse, one who we adored, smiled and said “Watch this!” He put his finger in Silas’ mouth and Silas sucked on it. I naively thought, “So what? Babies will suck on anything you put in their mouth. Why are you saying my baby sucks?” Then the nurse somewhat exclaimed, “He sucks!” And after a few more seconds, I realized that something so simple and natural as the reflex of sucking was a milestone to rejoice over! It was a sign of normal brain function. Praise God!
Hour by hour, Silas’ body began to wake up. Each tiny working part of it was another answered prayer, more evidence of God’s healing hand. Silas’ kidneys were two of the slowest organs to start working. He was four days old and had only voided about 219 mL of urine since his birth. This should be compared to his total intake of 1380.7288 mL of fluid via his arterial line and IV. His total output of 219 mL equals 7.4 fluid ounces. That’s less than one cup. Needless to say, Silas had swollen so much that his skin was stretched, shiny, and literally seeped fluid. He had gained two pounds of pure fluid, and for an 8 pound infant, that’s significant. His nurse that day said that we really needed to pray for pee! So we updated everybody and just asked for prayers that God would wake his kidneys up and make them work. Midday I got a call to my hospital room from his nurse. “You’re prayers were answered,” she told me, “Silas’ just peed a sopping wet diaper full!” Just like that, our Heavenly Father had heard the cries and answered. As silly as I had felt asking everybody to pray for pee, I was extremely overjoyed that God had heard!
Silas had been rewarmed to a normal body temperature and was showing tremendous progress. I was due to be discharged from the hospital and it had been arranged for us to stay at the charity house across the street. Yet another answered prayer. Silas still had a long way to go, but his vital signs were stable, blood count good, organs beginning to function and many reflexes intact. The plan now was to allow his body however much time it needed to finish healing and ever so slowly start trying normal “baby things”. He had been getting nutrition only from the IV, no feeding at all. He had been restricted to very low stimulation, meaning dim lights, no sound, and touch only. Yes, we did the unthinkable and didn’t allow anyone at all to touch our newborn baby! Doctor’s orders were that only Mom and Dad could touch him, and I mean we could only literally TOUCH him. No rubbing, patting, caressing at all! He had still only been held by the nurses that carried him after birth to the NICU. Just like I explained in previous posts, our hearts had been prepared for this journey. God never failed us! He let us walk closer to him during this time than ever before. He came through time and time again in very evident and specific ways.
After I had been discharged, we had to go to Target to pick up some things we needed (ibuprofen, Tylenol, groceries for the next few meals, and a stepping stool for me so I could get into Evan’s truck after surgery). We had just ate at a restaurant before going to Target. While shopping for the cheapest items we could find that would meet our needs, we happened upon a sweet woman that we knew. We talked a minute about how we had been, updated her on Silas and went our own ways. Evan and I continued shopping, knowing all the while that we couldn’t afford what we needed. We hadn’t told a single soul about our financial situation. Before we made it to check-out, that same woman found us and handed Evan $100. God had sent us money through this obedient Christian woman, a true cheerful giver! Moreover, when we paid for our items, the total amount was covered with the change equalling almost exactly what we had just spent at the restaurant. It was within $2-3 of the exact amount of both transactions. This is evidence of the God that I serve. He knows exactly what we need, when we are going to need it and He always provides it!
Please continue to follow this testimony, as I share the many other miracles God performed in our lives during Silas’ medical journey. Many thanks to the woman who gave so cheerfully! You know who you are and we are forever grateful! You were such a blessing to us in a time of need!
After a couple weeks in the NICU, we were beyond exhausted and so ready to go home. Silas had been miraculously improving daily. His first EEG was abnormal (obviously) and showed much cause for concern. The seizure activity that followed caused even more concern from the neurologists. Now, two weeks later, Silas had an EEG done that was unremarkable, completely normal! The hole in his heart had healed, and now he only had a murmur that was more than likely unrelated to his traumatic event. His other organs seemed to be functioning normally as well. On the other hand, Silas was extremely fussy ALL the time. He would just cry for hours. Volunteers would hold him when we weren’t there, and even the nurses would sit with him a lot of the time. His primary nurse seemed to think Silas was finally feeling good enough to feel bad. They told us that his excessive crying could be an indication of some sort of handicap or mental/emotional issue that would arise later. But after we got home, he slept wonderful! He would cry at times but nothing like he did in the hospital. We joke now that he was just wanting to go home. When we were discharged, we had peace already that Silas would be completely normal. God had already answered many prayers and given us and several others the complete peace that comes when He assures you that your prayer was heard. During this time in our lives, our church family was exceptional! Our church had a special prayer meeting just for Silas, and most everyone had been visiting, calling, praying consistently. We knew we were loved. One instance in particular, a man in our church was out in the woods where he hunts and felt the urge to pray for Silas. He knelt at the foot of a tree, if I remember correctly, out in the middle of the woods and called out to heaven for Silas. To hear his testimony about that occasion, God really showed up and allowed him to really “pray through” for Silas. He had complete assurance after that prayer that Silas would be alright. This happened during the time that Silas was still very critical and doctors weren’t giving any predictions at all. God had already spoke peace to our hearts that no matter the outcome, He was in control and we would be perfectly fine. And now God was letting us and everyone around us know that Silas would be perfectly healthy. My aunt would text my phone almost the same day and say she had prayed and knew that Silas was going to be fine. Other friends and family texted and called with the same assurance, everything will be fine. God is going to heal him. I’m not talking about what is advertised by evangelists on TV, the “name it and claim it” or ” just have faith” kind of thing either. These were testimonies of the Holy God of Heaven manifesting Himself in each individuals prayer life and taking their burdens and answering their plea right at that moment in their hearts.
When we came home, I should have been overwhelmed by the amount of housework and grocery shipping that needed done. Instead, my house was in order thanks to my wonderful family and friends. Furthermore, our car AND truck were filled with canned foods and groceries from our church! Our church had given us an old-fashioned pounding. It was truly overwhelming! I didn’t have to even think about what to do for food for the next several months. Some things even lasted for a year! Words cannot describe how good and faithful our Lord was to us! He had given us peace that passed all understanding, finances from multiple unexpected sources during the whole ordeal, and now food to stock our shelves! Not to mention all the other needs that He met daily and unexpectedly. All of Silas’ follow up appointments were filled with amazement from the doctors and staff. He only required his first follow-up visit to each of the specialists and they were all astonished at his miraculous outcome and never even required another visit, except the cardiologist who still monitors him due to the hereditary heart condition my husband and other son have. The therapists were set up to come into our home for any needs in the future. After several sessions to evaluate his progress during his first year, he was discharged from them as well and never required therapy since after each evaluation he was actually exceeding what was expected for his age. One visit in particular at about 6-9 months, i was talking to his worker and looked over to see Silas literally hanging by his hands and trying to climb the side of his playpen from the outside. His worker just laughed and said she guessed that answered her evaluation questions for the day since they were like, “Does he sit up for more than a few minutes at a time on his own?” Or “Can he pull himself up stand while holding onto something?”. Now Silas is two and a half, full of energy and spunk with a personality and stubbornness truly unique. We’re all the time saying, “That’s Silas for ya!”, at the many crazy things he does and says. He’s already counting to about 15, talking in full sentences using words like “disgusting”. We thank the Lord everyday all His blessing in our lives and I hope Silas’ story will encourage you to entrust your life to the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! He is in control of your life whether you are aware of it or not, and your life can be so much more if you will accept Him as the Lord of your life and turn your whole life over to him.