Angels, guardian angels

Angel in the ICU

When sixteen-year-old Susan Kelly felt blue or wanted to celebrate, she turned to music first. She and her sister Cathy, just two years younger, had had a gift for singing from the time they were toddlers growing up in Iowa. The entire extended family looked forward to get-togethers because Susan and Cathy needed no encouragement to sing for them. And when there wasn’t an audience, ence, “we harmonized around the house while doing chores,” Susan says, “and to all the oldies our mom taught us,” as well as hymns from the church songbooks. Both girls felt that singing had drawn them close and allowed them to avoid most of the bickering and rivalry common to many teenage sisters.

Now, however, Susan needed more than a song to solve her problem. She was pregnant. Her parents had been devastated at the news, especially because they did not like her boyfriend at all. But they stood by her with encouragement and helped provide a beautiful church wedding. Susan felt like a hypocrite. She had always had a close relationship with always had a close relationship with God. But now she felt he must be disappointed pointed in her, not only for her own actions but because she had let down the family that loved her. How could God bless this union? How could she even ask?

But Cathy wouldn’t accept Susan’s assumptions about how God-or others-must think of her. She popped in often to give her sister a hug and a word of support. “God loves you no matter what,” she reminded her sister over and over again. On good days, Susan could almost believe it. However, there weren’t very many good days. She was not long into her marriage before Susan discovered that her new husband was not as enthusiastic about impending parenthood as she was. He, too, had dropped out of school and was now working two jobs, one fulltime in a factory and the other part-time at a gas station. As her due date grew closer, Susan hoped with all her heart that the baby would bridge the growing gap between them.

Baby Bryan was born healthy and strong after a long and complicated labor. Susan’s husband and her entire family were with her throughout it, but Cathy seemed to bring her the deepest peace and consolation, holding her hand and praying. After the birth, Susan’s husband never returned to the hospital.

At home, motherhood was fascinating, scary, and amazing, all at once. Susan had planned to return to her job, but her husband was completely disinterested in the baby and would not take care of him. “I would come home, and the baby would be in the crib, wet, hungry, gry, and screaming,” she says. So she became a stay-at-home mom, and from the start, she sang to Bryan. When Cathy came to visit, she would join the song, too. Soon the girls had an entire repertoire of harmonized songs, everything from nursery rhymes to his apparent favorite, “Rock and Roll Lullaby,” which never failed to put him to sleep. Susan’s husband, however, was becoming more distant than ever. Susan wondered often what would become of them. Perhaps God had abandoned her after all.

When Bryan was nine months old, he developed a cold, his first real illness. By the third night, after singing countless lullabies and giving the baby one sponge bath after another, Susan was very worried. Infants’ Tylenol wasn’t bringing Bryan’s fever down and her husband was working late at the gas station that night, so she was alone. She had called the doctor earlier, but he had reassured her that infant colds were rarely serious, and she should relax. But now, as she felt the baby’s flushed face, Susan took his temperature again. One hundred and six degrees! “I was a little hysterical, I think,” she says. “I knew I had to get Bryan to the hospital quickly, but after I strapped him into his car seat and roared off, I realized I should get his father, too. So I drove to the gas station first.” But when she got there, she saw her husband standing outside the station, kissing a young woman.This discovery was too shocking and huge to deal with just then, so Susan shot out of the gas station lot and sped down the highway.

By the time she reached the hospital emergency room, Bryan was having trouble breathing, and his fever had spiked to one hundred and eight. Dehydration had set in. When the nurses started an IV in each arm, he didn’t even move. Susan sat, exhausted and terrified, outside the intensive care unit, watching through the window at the nurses’ station as the baby’s chest barely moved. “Please God, save him, save him” was all she could say. At some point, her family members came, except for Cathy, who was too young to visit the ICU.At some point, her family members came, except for Cathy, who was too young to visit the ICU. Susan’s husband also arrived. She couldn’t think of anything to say to him-everything seemed vague, as if she were in some kind of fog. All that mattered to her was Bryan. But would God answer her prayer? Was he still disappointed in her?

Finally, with the nurses’ consent, Susan climbed into the oxygen tent, lay on the bed beside Bryan, clutched his little hand, and continued to pray. But after five hours and several bags of fluids, his temperature had dropped only a degree. The doctor told everyone to go home, and everyone did, except Susan. “There has to be something thing I can do,” she begged the nurse on duty. “Anything.””Well .. .” The nurse looked around and then quickly left the room. She returned with a pitcher of cool water and a syringe with the needle detached. “Fill the syringe with the water from the pitcher,” the nurse instructed Susan, “and slowly drip the water down the baby’s throat.”

Susan got back under the tent and lifted Bryan into her arms. She would do this. She had to! Somehow she knew it was Bryan’s last chance. But it was so hard to reach the pitcher, then dip and fill the syringe with the baby in her arms. Susan struggled to balance everything, but the water dribbled out of Bryan’s mouth. She was so intent on her tasks that when the nurse came back, Susan didn’t look up. “Here, let me fill the syringe and hand it to you,” a woman said.But it wasn’t the nurse. It was Cathy! “Oh, Cathy, I’m so glad you’re here!” Susan’s eyes filled with tears. How had her sister managed to sneak in, despite being underage?And wasn’t it awfully late? Who had driven her? But this was not the time for questions.

Calmly, Cathy bent over the pitcher and filled the syringe, handing it to Susan, then taking it back to refill it. The baby settled down, swallowing each drop with his eyes still closed. Peace-in this unlikely and desperate place-began to move across Susan’s heart, banishing her terrible fear. She wasn’t alone anymore.

Softly she began to sing Bryan’s favorite, “Rock and Roll Lullaby.” Within seconds, Cathy’s voice joined hers, easily harmonizing as they had always done. From “Lullaby” they moved to other favorites as they rhythmically passed the syringe back and forth. No conversation was necessary. An hour passed, then Bryan fell asleep. Almost immediately the nurse came in the room to check him. “His fever has broken,” she smiled at Susan. “That’s good news.” Susan looked for Cathy, but she had apparently slipped out of the room.Exhausted and relieved, her hand cramped, Susan lay back on the bed.

For three more days, Susan stayed at Bryan’s bedside. Her husband visited, too, but both of them knew now that their marriage had ended. Separating was the right decision, but Susan couldn’t help but feel sorrowful. Once again, she had failed at something important. God must be so dissatisfied with her.

Finally, Bryan was discharged, and Susan drove with him to her family’s home. Cathy was waiting at the door to greet her. “Oh Cathy …” Susan hugged her. “Thank you so much for coming to the hospital that night! You were wonderful!” Cathy hugged her, then stepped back, a puzzled look on her face.Cathy hugged her, then stepped back, a puzzled look on her face. “What are you talking about, Sue? I was never at the hospital. You know I’m not old enough to visit the ICU.” Had it been a dream? No! Susan had taken the syringe home with her, and would never forget it passing between them, holding those tiny drops of lifesaving water. She remembered how cramped her own hand had been.But she would say no more until she had visited the hospital staff to thank them for their care.

A few days later, she did, and the same ICU nurse took her aside. “I’ll always remember how you stayed up all night alone with your son, singing the whole time,” the nurse said. “But I wasn’t alone,” Susan pointed out. “Don’t you remember the younger girl, the one that sang with me?” “There wasn’t anyone with you,” the nurse insisted. “I could see you clearly through the window, dropping the water into the baby’s mouth. You were the only one in the room.” Suddenly, as if a warm blanket was settling around her, Susan understood. Cathy had been right all along. God Suddenly, as if a warm blanket was settling around her, Susan understood. Cathy had been right all along. God loved her now, and had always loved her, just as she loved her baby. It was he, her Eternal Parent, who had arranged for an angel to watch with her that night in the hospital. Not just any angel either, but one who resembled the person Susan had always been able to trust and depend upon most: her sister. Susan went on to become a much-cherished wife and the mother of five children. Like all of us, she has encountered trouble and disappointment along the way. But she has never doubted God’s forgiveness. And, whenever they can, she and Cathy sing praises to him.

~”Guardian Angels” by Joan Wester Anderson~

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