43: Sara’s Angel

43: Sara’s Angel

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Touched by an Angel

Sara’s Angel

Make yourself familiar with the angels, and behold them frequently in spirit; for, without being seen, they are present with you.

~St. Francis of Sales

My heart pounded as the nurse pushed the needle into my infant daughter Sara’s delicate skin. I cringed as she let out a piercing cry.

“You’ll need to keep a close eye on her for a reaction,” said the nurse. I bit my lip and nodded. While I understood the importance of immunizations, I was leery about this one — her first DPT. Years earlier my son had experienced a frightening reaction to the DPT shot, screaming inconsolably for several hours. Since immunization allergies are often genetic, I feared Sara would have the same experience.

I let out a deep breath as Sara quickly relaxed and dozed against my chest. I paid my bill and carried her to the car. Strapping her into her car seat, I smiled at her sweet, contented expression. It looked like we dodged the bullet this time.

Halfway home, I heard a quiet moan from the back seat and glanced in the rearview mirror. While Sara’s rear-facing car seat made it hard for me to see her clearly, I could still tell she was squirming. Suddenly, she let out a high-pitched wail. My stomach fluttered and my chest tightened.

Maybe she’s just hungry or wet, I thought. The wailing soon turned into shrieking. This was not hunger or a wet diaper. I knew this cry. She was reacting to the DPT shot. I sighed — we were in for a long haul.

Sitting on my bed and holding my screaming daughter, I called the doctor’s office. They agreed that Sara was likely having a reaction to the shot. I was told the crying might go on for a while, but that she should be fine and I should call back immediately if new symptoms arose. They would mark in her chart that she couldn’t have the pertussis vaccine again.

Sara’s shrieking went on and on. It didn’t matter what position she was in, she still screamed. It was an awful, gut-wrenching sound. Her breath came in short gasps and she became hot and clammy. I tried to put her pacifier in her mouth but she wouldn’t take it. Slumping with her in a rocking chair, I tried to soothe her with a bottle but she wouldn’t take that either. All I could do was hold her and try to console her with words she probably couldn’t even hear. I cried with her, our tears mingling. My aching arms begged for relief, but I was terrified to put her down for even a moment. I felt completely helpless.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Sara began to settle down. As her breathing slowly returned to normal and her screaming turned to quiet whimpering, I placed her gently on her back in the middle of my bed and collapsed beside her. Eventually, she stopped crying altogether and fell sound asleep. We were both exhausted.

I stroked her hair and grateful tears spilled from my eyes. “Poor Sara-bear,” I said, using my nickname for her. “What a rough day you’ve had.” Her cheeks were flushed and tear-streaked, and her nose congested from crying so hard. But the crisis was finally over and I could relax. As the sun set, the room slowly darkened, I closed my eyes and let fatigue overtake me.

Within minutes, my eyes popped open. The bottles! I forgot to make the bottles! Each afternoon, I would prepare Sara’s bottles for the next day. With all the commotion going on, I’d forgotten. I looked at my daughter. She slept deeply, her face serene and her lips moving in a sweet, sucking motion. Yawning, I kissed her forehead and reluctantly went to the kitchen.

I lined up seven bottles on the counter and dropped a plastic liner into each one. As I opened a can of formula, I thought I heard a soft voice say, “Sara.” Thinking my husband was home from work early, I quickly turned to greet him but no one was there.

“That’s strange,” I said. I leaned against the counter for a moment, listening, but heard no sound except the gentle hum of the refrigerator. I shrugged and returned to my task, thinking I must be more tired than I thought.

Suddenly, I sensed a firm, seemingly audible command. “Check Sara!” I immediately stopped what I was doing and bolted to my bedroom. I gasped and rushed to Sara’s side. Her face and lips were pale blue, her bright, blue eyes wide open. The peaceful look she’d had minutes before had turned fearful, and her small fists clenched and flailed in the air. Her mouth was open but she wasn’t breathing. Hands shaking, I immediately turned her over, and vomit poured out of her mouth.

“Breathe, Sara!” I cried. “Please!” After what seemed like minutes but was probably only a few seconds, Sara whimpered, coughed and let out a high-pitched wail. This time, I didn’t cringe when I heard it but sobbed with relief. I held her tightly as she calmed down and I felt her rhythmic breathing.

I looked towards the ceiling. “Thank you,” I whispered.

I try not to think about what might have happened that day if I hadn’t received the mysterious order to check on Sara at that exact moment. I will never know for sure if I audibly heard that command or if it was somehow planted in my mind. But I believe with all my heart that I know who gave that order — her guardian angel.

~Annette McDermott

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