“Finding out that your child is going to be born with life-threatening struggles is beyond overwhelming. How did I feel? I cannot explain the devastation that I felt. I could not bear the thought of losing her, nor could I bear the thought of her suffering. So I started to pray and plead to God. Sometimes in the moment I didn’t recognize that God was giving me the strength to get through each day. But this I know: when I look back now, I can see that He gave me what I needed for each moment.” – my mom, Thelma Johnson
Here’s the story my mom didn’t tell you: She was already in labor when she found out I had Klippel Trenaunay Syndrome. (I was re-diagnosed with CLOVES syndrome as a teenager.) She was only 6 months pregnant, but she was admitted into the hospital that day. She spent week after week listening to Bob Fitts songs in her hospital room. She was often lonely and afraid. She spent her time researching my condition so that she would know which questions to ask. She would ask her questions, but then she would listen to doctors tell her they did not have any answers. At that point in time, no one knew if I would survive birth. In the midst of the unknown, my mom and dad knew they had to lean upon the One who loved me even more than they did.
As we look back, we can see how that chapter in my mom’s story foreshadowed my own story. For 23 years we’ve faced devastating news, weeks in the hospital, and seasons of suffering we never thought we’d make it through. We’ve had to lean upon God, asking Him to give us the strength to simply endure the day.
We’ve learned that God can use His people to be a source of strength for those who are suffering; however, His people have to be willing to sacrifice some of their time and resources. How can we support and strengthen our friends/family members facing health complications? Contact them often during seasons of suffering. Tell them you’re praying for them. Cook a meal for their family. Offer to babysit. Lend them books and movies. Take their favorite items to the hospital, including “little things” like Dr Pepper and good coffee. Think about creative ways to bring joy into their day.
Here’s the most important piece of advice I can give you: Be there through each and every trial. Your helping hand is appreciated more than you realize. Choose to be there through it all.