14. Thanksgiving for the Impossible

14. Thanksgiving for the Impossible

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Inner Strength

Thanksgiving for the Impossible

Mother love is the fuel that enables a normal human being to do the impossible.

~Marion C. Garretty

After an easy pregnancy, but difficult forceps delivery, our son was born. I was eager to be a mom and quite thankful for this little life in my arms. My husband, Mark, and I had planned on natural childbirth, including soft music and lights in the delivery room, warm water to bathe the baby after delivery, and immediate bonding with breastfeeding; but major problems disrupted our plans. Our son was presenting himself face up. In those days, a mother-to-be had to hope the infant would turn over on his own while she lay there connected to contraptions resembling TVs with bad reception. In all the chaos of the emergency, the lights went on, the basin of water was pushed aside, the music stopped, and my husband was kicked out of the room.

The doctor hastily administered a spinal injection, and our son was brought into the world. When he was finally placed in my arms, I noticed the scratches on his forehead. I recall thinking that he was a tough little guy, having survived the squeezing of those metal prongs. Two months passed as Mark and I relished the experience of parenting. Thanksgiving was fast approaching, and we looked forward to our first holiday with our son.

While breastfeeding my baby on November 20, I began to develop a headache. Within hours, I was in extreme pain and found it difficult to bend my neck. By the time Mark came home from work, I was in dire straits, with a 105-degree fever. Mark decided to take me to the ER. Friends agreed to care for our son, and reluctantly, I kissed his little face goodbye and promised him I’d be home soon.

On the way to the hospital, every bump in the road sent pain radiating throughout my back. Once in the emergency room, I explained to the doctor that I was lactating. I requested something for the pain, so I could return to my nursing baby. The doctor didn’t answer. After examining me, he left the room to speak to Mark privately. In my delirium, I could pick out words like “contagious,” “specialists,” and “life-threatening.” Mark’s voice sounded anxious as he responded with questions. Returning to my side, the doctor announced that I would not be going home—that I must be admitted to isolation, as I had contracted spinal meningitis. “Menewhat?” I retorted, weakly. “How?”

“We don’t know how, and we’re not sure if it’s bacterial or viral, so precautions are necessary,” the doctor responded. “We’ll administer antibiotics immediately.”

Overcome with pain, my maternal instincts still wouldn’t accept that I’d be separated from my baby. “Who is going to care for him and his daddy?” I pleaded. I needed to go home, but it was useless to argue as my fever was rising.

Visitors to my isolation room had to don gowns and masks. Friends called with encouragement, but I was so high on painkillers that I never remembered our conversations. Each time the drugs wore off, I requested a breast pump to keep my milk flowing for my return home to my baby. Mark had to work, so family members pitched in to help with our son. He was slowly getting accustomed to a bottle, but he cried a lot.

The spinal taps were extremely painful, but necessary for the doctors to track my progress. Once the doctors determined that the disease was viral, they discontinued the antibiotics and told me that my body would have to fight the illness on its own.

When Thanksgiving Day arrived, my family gathered at the home of my in-laws. As they shared turkey and all the trimmings, I lay in my hospital bed, feeling the meningitis eat away at my substance. As the disease attacked my brain’s left side, muscles in my right leg began to spasm and atrophy. I prayed repeatedly for healing and hope. I yearned to hold my sweet baby boy.

Suddenly, I noticed something outside my hospital window. I focused more intently, and tears formed in my eyes. Outside the window were my husband, his sister, and his mom holding up my baby for me to see. My two-month-old son peered through the glass that separated us, and our eyes locked. I felt a renewed determination and faith. I was thankful as I smiled back at my child. I knew I would return home soon!

On the eleventh day of my hospital stay, another spinal tap was performed. My right leg had diminished to half its normal size, but to my doctor’s surprise, I was seventy percent improved and could be released. So Mark took both of us home. I tried nursing my baby, but I was no longer lactating. Disappointed as I was, it remained a miracle that our son hadn’t contracted meningitis from breastfeeding the day I got sick!

I’ll never forget the nurse’s words to me on my follow-up visit to the doctor. With pain in her voice, she told me of her husband who was paralyzed from the same disease. I was speechless, but gratitude filled my heart for God’s mercy upon me. My doctor agreed that I was extremely fortunate, yet his prognosis was that I would never walk without a limp. I simply responded, “I have a little boy and I’m going to run with him. I WILL recover!” My faith increased daily as Mark and I began our own regime of physical therapy. I couldn’t step out of the tub without falling, or hold my baby unless I was sitting down; but I kept hearing that old song, “Ooh child, things are gonna get easier, ooh child, things’ll get brighter.”

It took a year and a half to reach my goal. I regained full use of my right leg. Although the tests showed severe nerve damage to my thigh and outer calf, my leg returned to the size it was prior to my illness. The strength in my muscles increased. By my son’s second birthday, I not only walked without a limp, but I ran. Soon, I was teaching an aerobics class and even won a dance contest!

With a heart filled with gratitude, I will always remember that Thanksgiving Day. The world told me I was done, but through the eyes of my child, God told me I had won. Today, no one would ever know that I fought such a difficult battle one November so long ago. There are no signs to show the world, except my own heartfelt words of thanksgiving for the impossible.

~Ginger Boda

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