87: An Angel in the Laundry Room

87: An Angel in the Laundry Room

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Touched by an Angel

An Angel in the Laundry Room

Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.

~Anne Sexton

The first indication that something was wrong with my fourteen-month-old son, Jeb Daniel, was during bathtime. Most nights, all three children splashed and played tirelessly in our expansive garden tub, a luxury they’d not experienced in our previous home, a small base-housing residence in Jacksonville, Florida.

But that night, Jeb Daniel began to fret while holding onto the edge of the tub and soon started crying, lifting one leg slightly off the tub’s floor.

I took him out of the bath, checked his leg for any sign of injury, dried and dressed him for bed, and then cuddled with him in the rocking chair. No fever, nothing out of the ordinary, he just seemed unusually calm and subdued. I read a couple of his favorite books to him and then tucked him into his crib. He fell asleep easily.

Several hours later, I was awakened by his cries. Upon entering his room, I realized he’d just vomited. “Oh, he has a stomach bug,” I muttered under my breath.

I changed his pajamas and sheets and then took him to the spare bed in the next room. I wanted to be near him if he got sick again, but I didn’t want to wake my husband David, an exhausted naval medical officer working to complete a master’s degree in Military Studies at Quantico, Virginia.

Jeb Daniel quickly drifted back to sleep on one pillow; I dozed off on the other.

In a short time, however, he roused, distraught and crying. He kept throwing up and I managed to protect his clothes and blankie with a towel each time. But one time, I didn’t move his blankie fast enough. So after Jeb Daniel drifted off, I tossed it in the washing machine and placed an identical one in his small hands. He only accepted these two blankies, no exceptions.

The next time Jeb Daniel woke up, he seemed more fretful and didn’t fall back to sleep easily. I carried him with me to the laundry room to move the clothes from the washer to the dryer.

When I bent over to drop his blankie into the dryer, Jeb Daniel, nestled on my hip, cried out as if in pain. I assumed his little tummy hurt, empty now and sore from throwing up so many times.

“The pain is in his lower abdomen; turn on the light and take off his pajamas.” I heard the voice, audible and clear. Startled, I looked to see if David had awakened, but I knew it wasn’t his voice.

I tiptoed downstairs, laid Jeb Daniel on the floor of the den, turned on the light — I’d been finding my way around with just a nightlight so as not to wake the rest of the family — unsnapped his footie pajamas, and removed his diaper.

My heartbeat quickened. There was a tangerine-sized bulge in Jeb Daniel’s belly, just below the diaper line. I stumbled up the stairs with trembling legs and woke my husband.

“We’ve got to get to the emergency room, now!” I said.

David dressed and held our precious son; I woke four-year-old Jenifer and seven-year-old Jeremy. We’d lived in Stafford for less than a month; I didn’t have phone numbers for any of our neighbors, and at three in the morning, I couldn’t think of a better solution.

We prayed in the car on the thirty-minute drive to Fort Belvoir Community Hospital. Jeb Daniel rested peacefully in his car seat with only a few occasional tears. I tried to remain calm, but my thoughts and stomach churned with possible outcomes.

The doctor on call gave orders for an intravenous drip feed and then said we’d be going by ambulance to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The technician assigned to start the IV proceeded swiftly but lackadaisically, assuming that my lifeless toddler would show no resistance to a sharp needle going into the top of his chubby foot.

Jeb Daniel kicked, jerking the needle loose. Blood splattered on both technicians and all over the tiny room. Finally, after they cleaned off the blood, the technician worked with more precision this time and inserted the needle in the fold of Jeb Daniel’s little hand.

I carried Jeb Daniel to the waiting ambulance. Paramedics strapped me to the gurney and allowed me to hold a once-again sleeping child. David and the kids followed closely behind.

At Walter Reed, doctors quickly diagnosed Jeb Daniel with a testicular torsion and said that he needed surgery immediately, adding, “Every minute counts when dealing with impaired blood flow.”

We nervously waited for surgery preparations. My husband couldn’t stop watching the monitor; Jeb Daniel’s breathing was so shallow from the medication, and he barely moved on the adult-sized bed.

I cried when they rolled my baby away and silently prayed.

What seemed like days later, the surgeon returned with news that all was well with Jeb Daniel. The torsion was corrected, and my son was resting comfortably in recovery. The doctor commended me for getting Jeb Daniel in before the restricted blood flow caused permanent, irreversible damage.

As I held my beautiful baby boy, I thanked God for Jeb Daniel’s guardian angel who met me in the laundry room in the wee hours that morning with explicit instructions for my son, His precious child.

~Julie Lavender

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