64: A Miracle Named Chloe

64: A Miracle Named Chloe

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Touched by an Angel

A Miracle Named Chloe

Miracles, in the sense of phenomena we cannot explain, surround us on every hand: life itself is the miracle of miracles.

~George Bernard Shaw

My pediatrician’s voice was somber. I knew something was wrong by the way he avoided my eyes, keeping his gaze down on her chart on his desk. “Chloe’s sweat chloride test results indicate that she has cystic fibrosis,” he said, tapping the papers with his pen. “She will need to go to Atlanta to Egleston Hospital to their Cystic Fibrosis Unit to confirm.”

As an R.N., I knew exactly what cystic fibrosis was. My mind immediately went back to one of my first patients after nursing school. Grayson was a thin man in his early thirties. He was special because he had survived a long time with CF, even though he deliberately went ten years without treatment. He wanted to live life on his own terms, and he did — going without treatment was his choice. But when I met him, he was back in treatment.

“Here is your medication,” I said to him, smiling as I stood by his bed. He nodded curtly, and motioned for me to leave the paper cup of pills on his bedside table. I shook my head, new to nursing and going by the book. “I can’t leave them here,” I told him. “I have to watch you take them.” Grayson sat straight up in bed and glared at me. “Leave the pills. I’ll take them when I’m good and ready.”

Flustered, I stood there for another minute before shaking my head again and walking out, pills in hand. I went straight to my charge nurse and related what had happened, expecting her to go back to the room with me to demand that he take them under our supervision. To my surprise, she burst into laughter. “Grayson has been coming here for years, except for when he took his time off,” she explained. “We let him break some rules. He will take the pills. He just doesn’t like to be told how or when, so we let him. It’s okay. Just take the pills back and leave them for him.”

I was flabbergasted, but I took the pills back and left them like she said. He grinned sardonically, and I could have sworn I saw a smug triumph in his eyes. From that day forth, however, Grayson and I became friends as well as patient and nurse. When he would leave the hospital, he would ask for me to come in and say goodbye. When he was admitted again and again over the next year and a half he asked for me to be his nurse. Sometimes he would have the nurses call me at home, and I would drive to the hospital at night and talk to him for hours. It wasn’t protocol, and I am not sure that I would do that now as a seasoned nurse, but back then I was young. And I worked at a facility that liked to encourage patients to take an active role in their treatment plans, even when that meant unorthodox methods — like letting them decide when to take their meds.

“Mrs. Reames,” the pediatrician interrupted my reverie, “we have notified Egleston. You can take Chloe there tomorrow morning.” I nodded, my thoughts still in a whirl, and looked down at my beautiful toddler. Blond hair framed her sweet face, and her hazel eyes, identical to my own, looked up at me. She smiled. Chloe was always smiling, except when she was coughing. My heart contracted. I prayed in that instant for a miracle. I knew it would take one. I couldn’t help but think of Grayson again, remembering that, in the end, his miracle did not come.

I had left the hospital for a volunteer missionary nursing opportunity in Quezon City, Philippines. Just outside of Manila, QC was a lovely, humid place and I was soon up to my elbows in patients speaking a language different from my own. I mastered a rudimentary version of Tagalog, a local dialect, and found myself giving shots for TB, working with patients who were malnourished, and seeing strange tumors and illnesses for which I felt woefully unprepared. Still, nursing there was vital and alive. I felt I was actually helping people, using my training in a way that validated and motivated me. Lost in the new experience, I was jolted back to reality with a long distance call one evening. Stepping outside of the mission house, surrounded by the albino peacocks that strolled the campus, my heart broke when I heard the voice of my best friend Betsy, a fellow nurse. “Donna, I just wanted you to know that Grayson died this week. He asked for you,” Betsy said, her own voice choked with tears. I could not believe it.

That night, holding my baby close, I prayed harder than I’d ever prayed before. “Dear God,” I whispered, so she wouldn’t wake up, “please make a miracle happen for Chloe. Please don’t let her have CF. Please.”

Early the next morning, my parents picked us up for the two-hour drive to Atlanta. Once there, things moved fast as we got Chloe to the CF Unit and had the test performed. After it was over, we went down to the hospital’s cafeteria to have lunch and wait for the results. Standing in line with Chloe in my arms, a young man in scrubs suddenly approached me. He stared at Chloe intently. Uncomfortable, I turned to my father, who asked the man why he was staring at us. The man smiled. Pointing to Chloe, he said, “She has a halo around her head.”

My heart sank. I thought he meant that she was going to die, that she would be with angels soon. My father was angry. “Please,” he said tersely, “leave us alone.”

The young man looked into my eyes. “Whatever was wrong with your baby,” he said, “it’s gone now. Your daughter is healed.” Before we could say anything else, the man disappeared into the crowd of people lining up to buy their meals.

Thirty minutes later, we were called back to the CF Unit. A technician met us with a confused look on his face. “We need to redo her tests,” he said, “because the one we did was 14, completely normal. The ones from the other hospital were 52 and 70.” When we were called back the second time, the technician was grinning from ear to ear. “Well,” he said, “both tests indicate that your child absolutely does not have cystic fibrosis.”

I do not know whether Chloe’s initial tests were wrong, or whether she was healed of CF that day in the cafeteria, and I don’t care. All I know is that my toddler is now a healthy beautiful seventeen-year-old, who dances through our home with the most joyous spirit I have ever seen, and who makes life magical for me, her father, and her two sisters on a daily basis.

To me, her very existence is a miracle.

~Donna Reames Rich

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