Thursday, February 05, 2009

What a Difference A Day Makes

It's a week later. I've spent most of it sitting at the hospital bedside of my son.

I am always concerned about my son when he competes. As a freestyle skier, he pushes the envelope and it's a higher risk sport. Since we weren't with him, he was on my mind and I had been breathing prayers for him all day long. Friday night at BreakForth we heard MercyMe. Bart, the lead singer talked about how his 6 week old daughter had almost died the past week from a respiratory virus but had since made a miraculous recovery. He thought it appropriate they sing "Ooh, Ooh, It's Gonna Be Alright." At that moment, it was as if God said to my heart, "No matter what happens with A, it's gonna be alright."

Saturday at BreakForth we heard from Matt Maher and then experienced conversational intimacy with God as John Eldredge coached us on Walking With God. Then we learned about Grace Based Parenting from Dr. Tim Kimmel, laughed through the family squeeze with Phil Callaway, and learned about our authority in Christ with Dr. Neil Anderson. Each session was profound and practical. I was enriched, my faith stretched.

During John Eldrege's talk, he walked us through an exercise in conversational prayer. During that time, I was praying for the safety of my son. I am not into mystical things, but during this session I got a clear vision of A as a 5 year old boy, walking away from me with his hand in Jesus' hand. The voice I heard said "No matter what happens. It's gonna be alright. Whatever happens, I will walk through it with you." 

That is comfort. That was 7 hours before I got the phone call I had always been dreading. At 5:22 pm on Saturday, I answered the call from an unknown number.

"Mrs. Harback, this is Ski Patrol from Sunshine Village." A had an accident.

I've imagined it all. Neck injury, avalanche, you name it. I didn't expect this.

"He's taken a pole in the chest. He's on his way to Banff Mineral Springs by ambulance."

A pole in the chest? What kind of pole? A safety fence pole? A course marker flag pole? I asked her to clarify.

"His ski pole." 

Okay, that makes sense. But how bad is it? Did he impale himself? 

"No," she replied, "It did not break the skin." She went on to give me pertinent details and we immediately packed up and headed for Calgary.

A explained later. He was on the mogul course, landed his first aerial jump but had too much speed going into the second pitch of moguls. He tried to slow down, pole planted, the pole stuck but his body didn't. The handle of the pole struck him just below the left rib cage, his spleen took a direct hit. Then he somersaulted over the pole and landed on his back.

Winded, he tried to get up. He immediately vomited. Not a good sign. Ski Patrol attended him and a doctor examined him briefly on the hill. Then he was taken on a stretcher by snowmobile down to the base where an ambulance transferred him to Banff Mineral Springs hospital. They found evidence of internal bleeding and immediately transferred him to Foothills Hospital in Calgary, in the event surgery would be required. 

Four hours after I got the call, we were at the entrance to Emergency, waiting to find out what happened. Our first encounter was with a volunteer who would connect family with patients. He said we couldn't go in and had no other information. I asked to see the social worker, whom I had spoken with on the phone while we drove down. She came and took us to the Quiet Room inside the doors of the Emergency treatment area. A's coach was there, waiting. He updated us on what he knew. Within minutes, the Emergency doctor arrived with the Social Worker.

"He has a fractured spleen." He explained how the blunt trauma "blew the spleen into three pieces." We finally got to see him at about 10:30 p.m. after all the testing had been completed. They continued to monitor his vitals and keep him still. He was in a neck brace (spinal collar) to keep him immobile. The trauma surgeon and two different doctors evaluated him, the nurse kept us informed, he was admitted and moved to the Trauma ward in a 3-bed room. Then the waiting game began.

Every six hours they drew blood, measured hemoglobin levels. They monitored blood in the urine. Each test the levels progressively improved. He was conscious and alert. He had minimal pain. The discomfort of the spinal collar and remaining immobile was more difficult than the low level of pain he was experiencing. This is one reason we are incredibly grateful the Ski Patrol had the experience to suggest this injury might be serious. 

He was listed in critical but stable condition for two days. The neurologist cleared him of any spinal issues and removed the collar. He was able to move a little freer but still restricted to bed. The bleeding stopped, the tests showed marked improvement and a second CT scan showed the pooled blood in the abdominal cavity was decreasing, being absorbed into the body. He could finally have liquids. By the fourth day he was allowed solid food and could get out of bed to walk short distances. He was transferred to Alberta Children's Hospital and discharged one day later. Isn't God's design amazing?

Through all of it, everything I had heard at BreakForth became a foundation of peace in our hearts. "It's gonna be alright" kept echoing in my head. The vision I had during conversational prayer confirmed again and again that God walks through every valley with us. 

The ER doctor told A regrettably, your ski season is over for this year.  A shut his eyes and a tear trickled out the side and into his ear. That was the only time I saw him express any sadness. The remainder of the time he was uncomplaining, quiet and cooperative. 

Yesterday when we arrived home, A seemed agitated. I asked what was wrong and he said "I'm irritated." Understandable. This is now the discouragement and disappointment he must face: his favorite activity, the five days he trained each week, the upcoming competitions, the spring skiing, Phys. Ed. at school, all gone. I could tell him to "look on the bright side" but I don't. I simply breathed a prayer for wisdom and said "Perhaps you should just have a conversation with God about that. He can take it. Ask him what he wants for you in this time of being still."

My brother reminded me that our disappointments are God's appointments. I know that in all things God works everything into a pattern for good. I don't want to speak in cliches. This is a challenge. Remember what I quoted January 28? 
Such acceptance is not possible without a deep and abiding belief in the sovereign love of God. Either He is in charge, or He is not. Either He loves us, or He does not. If He is in charge and loves us, then whatever is given is subject to His control and is meant ultimately for our joy. ~Elisabeth Elliot
God prepared me for this. He is walking through it with us, with A. Thank you for your conversations with God about us, please continue. Healing is still needed. Reinjury could be very serious. Three months from now, there will be joy. 

In the meantime, I'm looking for the little surprises and choosing to believe in the sovereign love of God.


1 comment:

  1. Oh Joyce, I'm so sorry to hear about this. But isn't God's preparation reassuring? I was at Missions Fest last weekend and heard a similar story of a missionary, whose husband died suddenly while they were holidaying with their grown and also missionary children in Ivory Coast.

    Weeks earlier, the daughter got a strong sense that something was going to happen to her Dad and brought to a point of surrendering him to God but didn't know what else to do with the experience. When the time came, though, it was reassuring to everyone.