Monday, 13 April 2015

Offering My Greatest Treasures

Every spring our lives change. 
Every. Single. Spring.

The Anderson family has some huge life-altering event/news take place. 
Some events are the best of our lives: the birth of Caithness Maela, the birth of Aberdeen Daye. 
Some events the most dramatic or painful: our home flooded with 5,000 gallons of raw sewage, the loss of our baby boy, Iain. 

This April marks the 3 year anniversary of one of the greatest times of trial in our lives. It is a story to be told, and we will tell it each year--to the glory of God. This story will be forever be etched on our hearts.

After church on Easter Sunday 2012 in Missouri while the majority of the family took naps I took Caedmon, then 5, out to fly his kite. While sitting on the bank of our pond I noticed an awful bruise on his right knee; black, blue, purple, it was horrible. Yet he didnʼt recall how heʼd gotten it or seem in pain from it. As I pointed it out later to Mark I realised both Caedmonʼs knees were bruised quite traumatically. That evening we were appalled to find similar bruising all over his body. Mark and I looked over Caedmon at each other with an awful sense of dread in our eyes. It was then the numbness began.

Caedmon flying his kite the day we discovered his bruises.

Monday marked a holiday for the Dr.ʼs office and as Caedmon seemed normal as usual we decided to circle the bruises with a pen to see if there were more appearing and wait it out. A dear friend Linda had a son who experienced similar  issues while in his teens. Linda came over and was sweet to offer her story in great detail to help us figure out what  direction to take. 

We decided to call the Dr first thing Tuesday morning. Tuesday, April 10, 2012 was our sweet girl, Aberdeenʼs 1st birthday. We had made the appointment when Mark called me into Caedmonʼs room to his bed--there were spots of blood on it. There were more bruises outside of our circled lines on Caedmon’s body as well. While our amazing doctor, Dr. Wright, was out on vacation we were able to get in to the clinic right away. 

A wonderful friend, Faye, was able to watch our 2 younger girls, Caithness and Aberdeen on a spur of the moment when Mark decided to go to to the doctor with us. I am so thankful for the decision he made to be with us.

After a strep test the nurse practitioner had us take Caedmon to the hospital lab for tests. We were not to leave town until the results came back. We went to a local fast food restaurant for lunch and Caedmon asked if he could have something to clean up the mess. I looked in the backseat and blood was everywhere. Caedmon had just received a finger-prick blood draw but the backseat of our car looked like a massacre. Caedmon wouldnʼt stop bleeding—from a finger prick.

In the doctors office 20 minutes later we knew even more assuredly something was terribly wrong. Our sweet nurse and friend, Christine, who helped deliver Caedmon, would not look us in the eye. Then Dr. Wright, who was on vacation, came in to give us the news; Caedmonʼs blood had a platelet count of 1,000. A normal person should have between 150,000 and 450,000 per microlitre of blood. Platelets are the small cell fragments in blood that stick together and form clots (scabs) to stop bleeding. There were also some other issues and what the lab reported to be blast cells appearing. Because Dr. Wright didn’t say, I asked about “leukemia”--cancer of the blood. My grandmother died of leukemia. He looked me in the eye and said, “Thereʼs a big difference in a grandmother having leukemia and a 5 year old boy having leukemia.”

As our control began to slip and our panic began to rise I heard the doctor say that Childrenʼs Hospital in St. Louis would be the best place for Caedmon as they are more equipped to deal with this kind of thing. Dr. Wright told us he would allow us to take Caedmon if we were very careful. Because as easily bruised on externally as Caedmon was he was as much so internally. We left the office crushed and in tears and word had gotten around because a receptionist, Kara, (who is now a dear friend) stopped to pray with us then and there.

Markʼs parents had come for a first birthday party and took the girls while this went on. We quickly went home to pack and put away birthday cake and party preparations. Again, dear friends Nick and Faye stopped by, prayed with us and  generously gave us money. They had a granddaughter who has spent much time at Childrenʼs for surgeries and they knew somewhat of what weʼd face. Having been through it many times their daughter, Sherry, was a source of encouragement and a great help to talk me through this time.

The 3 hour trip to St. Louis felt like 6. I spent a majority of the time on our phone, begging friends and relatives to pray, posting our need on Facebook and crying. During a pit stop Caedmon in a convenience store restroom looked at me and asked, “Mommy, am I going to die?” I knew then and there I had to pull myself together.

My sister, Catlin, met us at the hospital in St. Louis and was a great help to me as we had baby Aberdeen with us. Pray your children never have to see the inside of a hospital, but if they do Childrenʼs is the most amazing place. Caedmon was covered in stickers, had a balloon, stuffed animal and got to play on an iPad. He was x-rayed, IVʼd and poked but he got to order himself a cheeseburger and Sprite at 11 p.m. after being in an ER waiting room for 4 hours. During that time a doctor came by at least 2 times an hour and a nurse came by every 10 minutes.
Caedmon in the ER.

The ER doctor came and told us Caedmonʼs initial labs came clear and while he was severely lacking in platelets there were no blast cells evident. We then met Dr. Fields, the hematologist (blood doctor). She came and told us she did not agree with the previous diagnosis of no blast cells. But if this was indeed leukemia she had a plan to treat it. Thus began our emotional roller coaster of getting hopeful news followed by devastating news.

At 12:30 I took my sister and still-nursing Aberdeen and headed to Kristi, my sister in law's house 45 minutes away. I had to leave my precious firstborn with his daddy waiting to be moved to a room. Sleep that night was restless at best. Mark texted me at 2:30 a.m. to tell me Caedmon had been moved to a private room and was receiving an infusion of platelets.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012; Caithnessʼ 3rd birthday. My in-laws were so precious and helped make the morning fun for Nessie. Markʼs sister, Kristi, dolled her up and helped her have some normalcy to the day.That morning as I showered I knew what I needed to do. 

You see for so long I have given my possessions, my life, all that am to God. When I prayed I gave it all to Him, I trusted Him almost completely. Almost. You see I kept a part of me to myself, the sacred, the untouchable. “Lord, take all I  have...but please, please donʼt touch my children.” “Father, bless them, but theyʼre mine.” And you know what? I knew. I KNEW I was doing that in my heart of hearts. I knew I had been doing that for the past 5 and a half years since the incredible rush of love felt gazing into the face of your firstborn child . And I knew what I needed to do--what HAD to happen.

Right then and there I prayed this:
“Lord you know how much I love my children. 
You know how much I love Caedmon, but as much as I love him, I know You love him more.
So I am giving him to You, and if You need him right now You may have him... 

But, Lord, if You do take him I will have to have You uphold me, because I cannot bear it on my own.”

I still felt numb, but the dread that had hung over me was gone. I did what I had to do,what Iʼd needed to do for the past 5 1/2 years since falling head over heels in love with that perfect little 7lb. 10oz. boy. I gave him over to His Heavenly Father.

The day went by much the same as the previous evening in the hospital. Caedmon was on the 8th floor--the  hematology/oncology floor. We were surrounded by desolation veiled by cheerful nurses, trikes in the hallways, and therapy dogs. Caedmonʼs roommate, Ethan, a 16 year old St. Louis Cardinals lover, coming in for yet another round of chemotherapy was quiet and kind (please pray for Ethan when you read this). The nurses were skilled, animated, and fantastic with their patients.

That afternoon Caedmon received a round of immunoglobulin. This medicine would hopefully stop his body from destroying his own platelets. My parents and other sister flew in from Houston, TX and 11 of us packed into one half of a hospital room and celebrated Caithnessʼ birthday together handing out pink cupcakes to nurses and patients alike. Dr. Fields, the hematologist, came in a few times that day always with hopeful news then news that they arenʼt sure, another test needs to be run. By the end of the day we all were exhausted from the emotional upheavals. A final test was run and as a precautionary measure a bone biopsy was scheduled for the next day, Thursday.

Nessie's 3rd birthday celebrated in St. Louis Children's Hospital.
That night we all crammed together to stay in the hotel adjoining the hospital sending Nessie to stay again with her Papa and LouLou at Aunt Kristiʼs house. My parents stayed part of the night with Caedmon so Mark could sleep and we rotated shifts so we could all be there again that morning.

Through the day on April 12 we were blessed by visitors. From a good friend of mine in college who was a youth minister in the area, to friends from our previous church, to an elder at Cabool and our dear friend and minister Bob Martin making the 3 hour drive to pray with us. It touched us deeply. Iʼll never view a “simple hospital visitation” the same again. The outpouring of support and prayer on Facebook was overwhelming. Often abused and used negatively this social media outlet let us know we had prayer warriors on all sides of the world petitioning the Father on Caedmonʼs behalf.

Right before lunch Dr. Fields came in and gave us the news: Caedmon would not need a biopsy he was diagnosed with ITP (idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura) and not  leukemia. As Mark put it, “I have never in my life been more joyful to hear the news, ʻYour son has a blood disorder.ʼ” We knew ITP, it is a household name with the Andersons. I have been diagnosed with it 4 times, all pregnancy-induced. However, my ITP had never been as severe as Caedmonʼs.

We were released from the hospital later that day and made the slow journey home as we would have to pull over to the side of the road because Caedmon kept getting violently ill from a headache. After a panicked call to the hematology floor we were assured this was just a side effect of the immunoglobulin Caedmon received.

On the rooftop garden: St. Louis Children's Hospital is an amazing place!

The next few weeks were still tentative; keeping Caedmon from being too active (ha!), weekly blood draws, the financial blows of $90+ a blood draw. But through it all Godʼs hand was on us. He provided a way for Caedmon to have the easier finger-prick draw, the county health department was amazing to work with and did his draws for $5 and friends in the church gave Caedmon a grab bag of goodies for every time he was stuck with a needle. Every week Caedmon’s platelet count would climb higher and higher.

When the hospital bills came pouring in they totaled over $19,000 for doctors, labs, pharmaceuticals and those 2 days in the hospital. A huge amount, but then again what value would you place on the life of your child? We resigned ourselves to $25 payments for the rest of our lives when God yet again, intervened. I called to check on the balance of a bill and was told we had a $-0- balance. Our bill had been paid in full.

Over and over Mark and I saw the hand of God intervene, provide for and comfort us. God has a purpose. He has a plan. He loves us, He loves our children. I still daily have to give my “sacred” to God. “Here is my family, my babies I have faith you will do what is best--theyʼre yours.” Knowing full well that is my oath to Him, and I will follow through however great the cost.

On May 24, 2012 Caedmon was declared “healed” at a follow up appointment with Dr. Fields at Childrenʼs Hospital. Coming out of the hospital Mark looked over at me, squeezed my hand and said with tears in his eyes, “God couldʼve taken better care

of Caedmon, but Heʼs let us have him back.”

Caedmon, after his "all clear" check up gets to climb his first tree in over a month!

Updated from the original post here.

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