My daughter-in-law, Lindsey, is writing a blog (here) about her son’s life and his genetic disorder called Citrullinemia. She is currently writing about his first few days of life. I wanted to add my perspective as a grandparent for the record.
My wife, Susan, and I were thrilled when our grandson, Caleb, was born. We had plans to visit Louisiana a month later so we could meet him. We so enjoyed getting to see his pictures and talk with our son, John, on the day of his birth. We didn’t know it but we were entering probably one of the most emotionally difficult periods of our lives. Things changed quickly when I got a call from John that Caleb was being transferred to an NICU about 60 miles away because he wasn’t acting right. He was not eating and was lethargic. We were concerned and began to ask friends, family and our prayer team at Bay Community Church to pray for Caleb and his parents. We were so glad Lindsey’s parents were there supporting them.
I can’t convey the sense of helplessness to have your son and his wife have their first child and things were taking a turn for the worst and we couldn’t do anything to help. So, we maintained contact receiving frequent updates via text and phone. Most of the updates weren’t very encouraging. We got a call from my son after they had been in the NICU for a couple of days saying that Caleb was being transferred via helicopter to New Orleans Children’s Hospital. His body had too much ammonia and he had to get dialysis immediately or he might not make it. That NICU didn’t have the capability to do it. That was pretty shocking news.
The transfer was on Monday night. I made reservations for John and Lindsey at a hotel near the hospital so they’d at least have a place to stay when they arrived in the middle of the night. They were driving while Caleb was flying. We talked with them while they were driving. In the morning I talked with John and he said that they had arrived safely during the night. They used the room only to shower and spent the rest of the time at the hospital. He said it was a hard night, but at that time they still didn’t know what the prognosis was.
I had a friend that had recently graduated from a seminary in New Orleans. I called him and asked him if he knew any pastors there that might be able to go to the hospital and visit John and Lindsey. He said one of his professors was also a pastor and he’d give him a call. God’s people are so good. The professor had an early class but went to see them right after. He spoke with them and prayed with them.
Around 10:30 a.m. I text him and asked how he was. His reply to me was, “terrified!” That put me into action. I thought to myself, “if my son is in a foxhole terrified, I’m jumping in there with him and we can be terrified together.” (I’m retired Army and he’s currently in the Army) I got online and bought an airline ticket from Miami to New Orleans. I made ground transportation and hotel arrangements. I also arranged for my wife to join me the next day. I had great support from our congregation who urged me to go and took care of covering my preaching responsibilities for our church service on Sunday. Susan arranged to leave her work the next day.
I didn’t tell John I was coming because I didn’t want him to be concerned about me in anyway. He needed to focus on being a dad in a crisis. When I arrived in New Orleans, I spoke with John and then I drove the rental car to the hospital. He came down to the car to meet me. I guess the thing that struck me was how calm his demeanor was and how well he was handling the whole situation.
I came to find out that the reason he was terrified is that the main physician working on Caleb had told him that Caleb might not make it. She wasn’t sure he would pull though. That is hard for any parent to hear. I will tell you that being a grandparent in that situation is double hard. You hurt for your child. No one wants their children to go through such difficulties. But, you also hurt for your grandchild. It’s amazing the automatic love connection you have with your grandchild.
I remember walking into his room. I saw Lindsey near the bed and little Caleb with all kinds of wires, monitors and hooked up to a ventilator. I kept on thinking how difficult that had to be for these young parents. I was glad to be there with them. I couldn’t do much for them. They were the parents and I was a bystander. But, I could just be there for them. I went over to Caleb and rubbed his little body and prayed for him.
It was a blessing to see them be there with their son. Lindsey would read Bible stories to him. Of course, he was not conscious, but she knew he was listening. I know God was pleased at this loving mother.
Psalm 71:18 (NLT) Now that I am old and gray, do not abandon me, O God. Let me proclaim your power to this new generation, your mighty miracles to all who come after me.