“Maybe since my life was changed
Long before these rainy days
It’s never really ever crossed my mind
To turn my back on you, oh Lord
My only shelter from the storm
But instead I draw closer through these times.”
Finn was 13 months old. He was having a minor day surgery. The nurse took his temperature, asked his height and weight and took his blood pressure. The alarm on the blood pressure machine kept sirening. The nurse reached over and turned off the alarm with some sort of “I hate that thing” comment. I don’t remember the numbers on the machine — at that point I didn’t know to pay attention or even what numbers were good or bad.
A few hours later they take him back for surgery and the surgeon tells me he’ll see us in the recovery room in a few minutes. The surgery was going to be simple and quick. 15 minutes. 20 minutes. 25 minutes. The anaesthesiologist comes to where we’re waiting. He says Finn is fine, the surgery is going fine, but there is a problem with Finn’s blood pressure. I don’t understand but he’s still talking to me. I’m listening to him and answering his questions and trying to make sense of this all at the same time.
He says Finn’s blood pressure was high before they put him under sedation but they thought it might be anxiety about the surgery. They expected the blood pressure would go down once he was sedated. But it went up. The numbers that stick out in my head were 215/185. Normal for an adult is around 125/75. Normal for an infant is even lower. The anaesthesiologist could tell I wasn’t fully grasping what these numbers meant. “That is the blood pressure of an adult having a heart attack,” he said.
He left to go back to Finn. My family and I were speechless and confused. We prayed. The dr. was gone just a minute or two, and then he came to get me. Finn was awake and crying and the dr. wanted me to help calm him down. They were injecting medicine in his IV to bring the blood pressure down but it wasn’t coming down a whole lot. He was getting the injection every five minutes. I held him and rocked him and shushed him and spoke softly to him trying to help him relax.
Some amount of time passed and the blood pressure was low enough to move him out of recovery. We were moved to pediatric intensive care. The next 24 hours are kind of a blur. They kept pushing medicines, they did ultrasounds of his abdomen, there was little discussion of what the problem was or how to fix it.
The next morning they loaded us up on an ambulance and took us to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee. We spent nearly a week at Vanderbilt. They did a CT scan with contrast running through Finn’s veins and found the problem — a pinched or narrow artery. The artery was the renal artery to his right kidney (renal means kidney). The artery was too narrow to carry the required amount of blood to the kidney so it signaled his heart to send more. The heart sent more, causing all the other organs to get too much. The official diagnosis was hypertension due to renal artery stenosis to the right kidney.
At the time, we didn’t have many options. In adults, arteries like this are fixed by putting in a stint to hold the artery open. They didn’t make a stint small enough for a one-year-old. Another option in adults is removing the narrow section and piecing together the two ends. But Finn’s narrow section was long enough that removing it wouldn’t leave enough end pieces to pull together without resulting in a still-narrow artery.
Either surgery was not a viable option. We couldn’t fix it, but his blood pressure could not be allowed to be that high. So instead of fixing the problem we had to fix the symptom. Basically, Finn would take medicine to control his blood pressure until he was big enough for surgery — if surgery would even fix it. The downside to treating with medicine was the right kidney may not get enough blood, may not grow at the same rate as the left kidney, may not grow at all or may lose function. Another “option” was he could outgrow this condition, but in the meantime the blood pressure needed to be controlled medically.
For the next year we commuted to Vanderbilt every other month to check his blood pressure and adjust his medicines accordingly until the dr. got it just right. He was on two medicines, twice a day. The medicines were not manufactured for children so they had to be compounded into liquids.
The dr. thought the artery might be operable when Finn was 3 or 4 years old. When he was 3 1/2 they did another CT scan of his kidneys and the artery was still too narrow for surgery. However the right kidney was only slightly smaller than the left, so that was a good sign that the kidney was growing and functioning. We kept taking meds and had checkups at Vandy every six months.
They did another CT scan earlier this year — at 5 1/2 — and things had changed. The artery wasn’t too narrow. Still a little narrow, perhaps, but not narrow enough for the radiologist to call it a stenosis. Around the same time Finn was dealing with all these migraine headaches and one of the suggestions from our pediatrician was seeing if the blood pressure medicines were contributing to that.
So our Vandy dr. started decreasing medicines, and the last two months we’ve been cutting doses in half and then doing away with doses alltogether, and this past week we went for a checkup. He’s been taking only a small amount of medicine once a day the last few weeks and his blood pressure checked out fine. So the dr. said to stop that last little bit and take nothing at all. Really?!?
For five years we’ve taken two medicines, twice a day, and in a matter of months we’ve shed off all of that and his blood pressure is fine all by itself. Amazing!
I’ve been in a little shock and disbelief ever since. Not a pessimistic disbelief, just full of wonder and amazement at what has transpired. I still can’t put the right words to it. I can’t say for certain that this is behind us because we’re still testing it out. We go back in two months and see how he’s doing. We’ll do periodic blood pressure measurements over the next year just to make sure it doesn’t creep back up. And we’ll scan the kidneys again in a year and see what the artery looks like. But it’s quite possible that Finn is healed.
Healing doesn’t have to come immediately or when we think it’s needed or at an illness’ onset or even at it’s worst. Healing can come over the course of a few years as the miraculous body God made grows and develops and works itself out. I believe God could have touched this artery and fixed it — we prayed that this entire time — and that may very well be what He did. But I also believe that he created our complex bodies and it’s possible that his marvelous creation healed itself over the years just by doing what God made it do. And if that’s the case — that all Finn’s body needed was a little time to work this out — then how thankful I am that God made a way through modern medicine to keep his body healthy until it was ready to heal, or until He healed him.
Now if over the course of the year things aren’t as they seem and we end up back on medicine or whatever else may happen, none of that will make anything I’ve said here not true. It just means God’s working again and there will be something great come out of that work too.
The morning after hearing this news I was listening to some great praise music on the way to work and I couldn’t hold back the tears. The song was Mercy Me “Bring the Rain,” and I was crying over how unworthy I am to receive this blessing of healing in my son.
This whole time, instead of asking “why me” in the traditional sense of why is this bad thing happening to me, I’ve aked “why me,” meaning what do You want me to do with this, how are You wanting to use this. And this past week I was asking “why me,” why is this great thing happening to me because I am so unworthy. And while I don’t have all the answers, the answer to all three of the “why me” questions is love. Because He loves me, I go through trials. Because He loves me, He will use this for His glory. And because He loves me, he pours out blessings that we don’t deserve. Because He loves me, He brings the rain.