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Fear's Sneak Attack: How A Doctor's Near Fatal Mistake with our Baby Shook my Faith

by Julie Arduini  
3/31/2007 / Health

Fear or faith. Two choices always in conflict, consistently wanting our
loyalties. After fifteen years of living for Christ, my goal remains to choose faith even in the darkest of times. My shield of faith stands high when I recall my experiences of infertility and miscarriage. Through those valleys He has the glory in the medical improbability of my two children: Brian and Hannah. Yet I confess the army of fear won a short coup over faith when my husband and I had to bring Hannah back home after a medical crisis.

Our early days with Hannah contained praise and joy. Health, happiness and peace surrounded her. There was no reason to fear because there was no battle. When she turned two months old, her health status changed from well baby to at risk. This is the mark where fear started the plan of attack.

Hannah was diagnosed with congenital hypothyroidism and was at risk for developmental delays if the needed medicine wasn't administered immediately after the diagnosis. Unfortunately an error occurred in Hannah's case, so our faith resolve was vulnerable a month later when Hannah quickly developed a cold.

It was Thanksgiving week and with this error, we were hesitant to return to the same office. However, our thought was it's just a cold, what could possibly go wrong?

Hannah was prescribed Robitussin with codeine, something I questioned the doctor about, given she was only three months old. He said with how quickly croup comes on, it was a good idea; in fact, everyone in the house should have it on hand. Still holding onto faith, I filled and gave Hannah the prescription. Each hour her symptoms worsened. On Thanksgiving Eve day she grew lethargic. I put her down for a nap and immediately felt an urge to check on her. I found her completely gray with hardly a pulse. Fear was invading with no signs of retreat.

It took a full medical transport team from a pediatric intensive care unit over two hours away to save Hannah's life. Hannah's diagnosis was croup, complicated by doctor error. As gently as the Pediatric ICU doctor could, he explained Hannah never should have been prescribed that medicine. While we were two hours away in an ICU watching our baby wrapped in tubes and connected to machines, our doctor was enjoying Thanksgiving dinner with his family. Fear brought back up help to commandeer faith: anger.

Thankfully Hannah stayed only two days in the hospital and was released as a well child with no long term concerns. My spiritual diagnosis was not as optimistic given the anger I was carrying, and the paralyzing fear of leaving my daughter for a moment.

I fought the images hourly of finding Hannah completely gray, and the
local emergency department admitting they were not sure what to do until the transport team reached her. Many of the procedures the local ER performed on her left her scarred physically and me emotionally. Each nap, every bedtime left me in an absolute panic. The questions swirled around my mind without ceasing---'what if she isn't breathing? Is she gray? It's been ten minutes, should someone check on her?' The monitor no longer was good enough. My husband and I were in her room constantly, leaning on her to feel her chest raise and fall. We were blinded by fear, afraid if we missed a moment of Hannah's breathing, she'd die without us there to save her.

It took months of prayer and a memory of a Gaither Homecoming concert I had attended six years earlier to realize the hold fear had on my life. During this concert Bill Gaither shared that he recently had a heart procedure that went well, but afterwards left him anxious and scared about his future. He confessed his fears to beloved Homecoming singer Vestal Goodman. With dramatic gesture he related Vestal's response. She reminded Bill that he is the one that wrote Because He Lives. A song like that, a life like Bill's, is about faith. Fear and faith will never mix.

Choose one or the other. Vestal ended her motherly rebuke with the hope that as the author of one of the most famous modern Christian hymns around, he best be choosing faith.

Bill Gaither would probably agree that I'm glad God is only asking for mustard seed size faith because anything bigger I probably could not produce. Hannah is proof of what God can do when we literally let go, and let God.

Hannah had a couple asthmatic related relapses since but nothing like our time at the Pediatric ICU. We had to move for a job change after her first birthday, and the move gave us a new beginning in many ways. We face unknown tomorrows but in trusting God, He blessed us with what her new pediatrician right before the move declared, "A well child with a very bright future ahead of her."

As for the doctor who made the mistake, his year was not any easier than ours.
Months after we forgave him, I ran into his wife, also a doctor, at a Mothers of Preschoolers meeting where she was the guest speaker. Many knew our story and discouraged me from attending. I knew I had to attend, and as soon as she saw me, she came up to me and we hugged. God used Hannah to teach two families much about fear and faith.

Their child is in high school looking for a career path and is considering medicine. I learned that the parents at first wanted to discourage her because of the paperwork, the policy changes, and the mistakes they learned through Hannah that can be made. Yet as they prayed as a family, they realized fear must surrender to faith and see where it takes them. Last I heard, their child is still considering going to med school. I have faith that's a great choice.

Julie Arduini,, is devoted to writing for Christ in ways that encourage and inspire. A graduate of the Christian Writer's Guild, her writing resume is on her blog's sidebar. Happily married to Tom, they have two children.

@2009 by Julie Arduini

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