Surgery, Stress, and the Source of her Strength

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Get in Here Now

“Laura, can you come here a minute please?” My heart sank. After 2.5 years with Belle, my husband, myself, and her nurses have come to know that it’s never good news when one of us says the words, “Can you come here a minute” from her room. This particular Sunday morning I was curling my hair in the bathroom when our dear Nurse Darla (aka Belle’s “Darwa”, aka Joey’s “Darlin,” aka my “right arm”) called for me. Joey often messes with me when he’s hooking up TPN. He’ll call out the dreaded, “Laura, get in here” in the tone that only we know means “mayday, need backup, bad news” then laugh when I come frantically barreling in the room, only to see he’s messing with me. I’ll give him the meanest glare, deck him in the arm, and say, “I swear if you ever do that again…” Unfortunately, this particular Sunday morning, Darla really did have bad news that very much indicated something bad was brewing inside her little body. It prompted the domino effect of me yelling down to my husband, “Joey, get up here now.” I could see from his face that his heart sank as well.

Daddy and Belle post surgery

The timing couldn’t be worse. Belle was supposed to have her gallbladder surgery in two days. It had already been cancelled once. Weekly labs indicated that she needed it out yesterday. We could not afford another cancellation. I was already down. Blood work showed her liver enzymes had tripled in the last few weeks. It was so concerning to her doctors that, thinking she had a clogged bile duct, they called us in for a last minute ultrasound before surgery. A clogged duct would cause a much more complicated surgery and likely end our hope of this becoming a quick and easy laparoscopic procedure. On top of that, she was also starting to get a cold which is why they cancelled surgery last time. Sigh……

How Do I Respond?

“I’ve noticed lately that when things go south with Belle, and the stress and fear set in, my physical body responds before my emotions. With Darla’s news, which was just compiling on bad news from the last week, I felt that tightness in my chest and weakness in my legs that has become so familiar. When it’s really bad news, it is usually followed by shortness of breath and immediate and uncontrollable tears.

This is a lesson that hasn’t come easily. It has taken me 30 years of walking with the Lord through the good, bad, and the ugly to get to the point where I can force myself to mentally respond to the physical signs of panic when I know something very bad is happening with my child. Specifically, the last 2.5 years of being broken, redeemed, living through the most intense emotional pain I could ever imagine, as well as being a first hand witness to God doing unimaginable miracles in my daughter’s life; all of these experiences have helped me discover tangible responses that actually do work. So, upon hearing the dreaded, “Laura, come here a minute” in the dreaded medical emergency tone, and seeing that yes, indeed this might be a serious problem, I walked out of her room, and headed to mine. I told my pounding heart to breathe and I let my shaky legs give way to the firm foundation of solid ground. Down on my knees, I said, “Ok God.” And I began to pray. I don’t always pray on my knees. I mostly don’t. But when I’m asking God to do a supernatural work in my children, I always get on my knees. It doesn’t make me any holier or my prayers heard anymore than when I pray while driving my car. It’s a sign of submission. It’s a physical sign to my heavenly father that says, “You are in control. I am not. The doctors are not. You alone determine her path, and I willingly and expectantly submit to your authority and power.” I prayed, a weak, feeble, broken, to be honest totally lame prayer, begging God to heal what was happening in her so we could have this surgery, and then we all got in the car and went to church.

After prayer, my the second response to panic (that actually works) is worship. It was easy to worship this day because it happened to be a Sunday morning and we happened to be heading to church. But on days when we aren’t, I still worship. I worship for a few reasons. First, because I don’t have words myself. It’s easier to sing along, hum, or just meditate on the words while someone else sings than to come up with my own words to give to God when I’m in a bad physical and emotional state. The second reason I worship is because it is my way of telling Jesus, “I trust you. I don’t understand what you’re doing here. I don’t even like it. But whatever your will for Anabelle, I will follow you and worship you because I know you are good, even when this doesn’t feel good.”

Waiting while my girl has surgery. Verses from my friends, chocolate, praise music, and a stress ball are my jams!

The last thing I do when faced with panic situations involving my child, after praying and worshiping, is sit back and watch God do the “impossible.” Ok, I’ll be honest. I don’t always willingly sit back. I still have to grit my teeth, constantly fight the overwhelming fear with the truth of scripture, and have a few good cry sessions. Additionally, “sitting back” for me often involves chocolate and a stress ball. But someday, I’ll get to the point where I can calmly sit back and watch Him work with the same carefree spirit I watch my favorite episode of The Office


The Outcome

Jonah makes everything better!

Belle had her surgery as scheduled. Her cold just kind of “disappeared.” The ultrasound revealed she did not have a clogged bile duct. The concern Nurse Darla called to my attention and caused the docs to be all up in arms, an ER visit, multiple phone calls, consults with four different departments all trying to figure out if and how they should treat just. went. away. Like it disappeared, without treatment. She had no physical pain or discomfort. We saw her lab numbers. We saw the evidence our Nurse showed us that an infection was probably brewing, and yet, none of it came to fruition in her little body. Surgery went off without a hitch. They performed it laparoscopically; never mind that 2 years ago they couldn’t even find her gallbladder because her anatomy was so complicated. Belle came out of surgery and went home two days later. She never missed a beat. She’s the same little sassy pants. She is currently jumping off the furniture with her brother and telling me “Noooooooo” to every direction I give her.

And why? And how?…Prayer

Belle enjoying a slushie in the ER a few days after her surgery.

I share this, not to highlight my own feeble faith. I am a sinner saved by grace. But here’s the thing. I see what God does with Belle. This same scenario has happened over and over again throughout the last two years. “Laura, get in here” situations occur all the time, and yet, they almost always turn in to nothing with Belle. I fully believe God has “healed” her body from brewing infections, everyday sicknesses her brother passed on, etc. because I’ve seen the physical symptoms that bring me to my knees so many freakin times. People very close to us know it too. Her nurses have seen miracles. My prayer partners have seen miracles. “That’s Belle for ya,” they say as we all scratch our heads. I can’t keep my mouth shut, and I can’t quit sharing her story because it’s unreal. It’s not karma, or fate, or good luck, or good vibes (whatever those are anyway????). It’s the thousands of faithful prayers that have gone up for our daughter. It’s God’s divine “hedge of protection” around her as many close to us like to call it. It’s submitting to who God is and trusting His plan for her. He likes that, and when we are willing to let him, He’ll do insane works just to prove He’s God. I don’t know God’s plan for Belle’s future, but I’ve seen what He has done in her past and I will never be the same again because of it.

There is one area where we are asking for some very strategic, specific prayer for Belle. Her liver markers have come down slightly, but are still elevated to a point that isn’t safe for her. Overall, her doctors were pleased with the results of her liver biopsy, but stressed that we still need to see those numbers come down. When Belle didn’t grow for awhile, we increased her calorie intake significantly (which worked by the way), but now her liver is angry at us. It’s a constant ebb and flow of trying to keep her calories up so she grows and her liver happy at the same time. I was encouraged that her doctor shared some new treatment ideas he has since a new FDA approval so that is a very viable option as well if her markers don’t come down. My Pastor preached a sermon last Sunday from Mark 9. Jesus healed a young boy and the disciples questioned why they couldn’t do it when previously Jesus had given them the power to do so. Jesus’ response to their question was that this kind of healing can only happen with prayer. I don’t particularly always enjoy sharing about Belle’s life. But, I am her advocate and I will ALWAYS do what is best for her. Prayer is best for her. Her liver needs healing right now and I believe this is the kind of healing that will only happen for her with prayer. Will you please consider praying specifically for this for her?

To God be the Glory, Great things He Hath Done

A few hours after surgery. Girl knows where her help comes from.

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