Last Wednesday night Dominic turned pale while, rolled his eyes back into his head and passed out. Scary as this may sound, it is not an entirely atypical response from him, but usually indicates sickness or severe pain. Right away, he began taking fewer breaths and was fading fast so I rushed him to his room, hooked him to the vent and gave oxygen and a breathing treatment. I know this sounds dramatic- like call 911 dramatic- but this is life with a child like Dominic, you learn how to deal. He was stabilized and asleep so we didn't bring him in because the vent was keeping him safe and he was otherwise asymptomatic. The next morning however he looked even worse, had a high heart rate (also indicative of pain or sickness), but this time he had bile coming out of his g-button- the sure sign of a bowel obstruction. Immediately I called my mom and had a mini break down- nothing like her voice to crush my hard exterior, exposing the raw nerves lurking beneath.
I paused a moment and looked into his face, so innocent and fragile. I was taken back by the reality that his life was literally in my hands. A terrible and great responsibility not suited for a mother. I gave myself just a moment too long to linger and I started to loose my focus and composure. Luckily his nurse saw and scooped me up into an encouraging hug. I shook from the sight- I will never get used to seeing him so sick and limp. I swallowed the lump in my throat and carried on. We decided to transport him to the hospital ourselves instead of calling an ambulance because hey, I've transported worse, and I thought an ambulance would be too scary for the kids in a situation that I knew we could handle for a little while longer. They by the way were eating cereal, every now and then greeted by their mom wearing a plastered smile so they wouldn't worry too much. My mom arrived for the kids just as we finished gathering his supplied to go and we were off to the ER.
As usual, we were taken right back to a room and after hours of testing, the physician confirmed what I already knew- he did have another bowel obstruction where his intestines twisted on themselves. Once the diagnosis was made, things went fast. His surgeon was briefing with the ER doctor while he was driving in and all the wheels were turning. This is an emergent situation as it can lead to death fairly quickly if not treated. Our capable surgeon rushed in and he was in the OR shortly after. What follows comes from my amazing husband. Who knew when God brought us together that sweet, cute boy I fell in love with would turn out to be my spiritual beacon?
As some of you may have heard, my son Dominic had to be admitted to Cooke Children’s Hospital for emergency surgery for an obstructed bowel. This is the second of such surgeries and the third on his intestines. Due to scarring from previous operations, his intestine twisted on itself causing a blockage which can be fatal if not caught in a timely manner. The surgery was a success again due to the careful attention and skill of Cooke’s surgeons. So, I found myself sitting by Dominic’s bedside yet again as he suffered and clenched with pain from the large incision on his abdomen. Being in this position is one of the hardest things to do as you must stand by and just try and comfort the one you love while they suffer. Each time this has happened with Dominic I have grown closer to Our Lady who stood by her son while He suffered and I come to better know Him, who suffered a horrifying death for you and me….by name.
This time, however, has been different as myself and our three oldest kids contracted a stomach virus to suffer along with Dominic. In God’s mercy, Chasity was sick with the bug earlier in the week and is able to take care of our youngest, Kolbe, and sit with Dominic as he recovers. When I began feeling ill and my energy began to drain from my body, I realized that it was a unique opportunity to offer this little suffering to Christ and unite our discomfort and pain through Him for someone in particular. This is what our age old church calls redemptive suffering and in particular was described by St. Paul when he wrote “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions” (Col 1:24). What is lacking in the suffering of Christ?? Does this mean that Jesus’ death was close, but not quite enough, to make us right with God? No. Jesus’ death and resurrection was enough, but Scripture reveals that there is still a crucial role for you and me to play in the amazing work that is Christ’s redemption of the world.
For many, suffering is evil and must be avoided at all costs. Faith reveals to us something different, it reveals that the most active time of Christ’s life was when He was hanging on the cross, suffering for you and for me, offering His life for the whole world. Jesus’ suffering wasn’t something that happened to Him. Rather, it was something that He willed for the redemption of the world. This changes everything! For those that know Him, he shows us how to suffer and participate with Him in His redemptive work.
This is not to say that suffering is good…it’s not. God never intended this in his plan for us, but due to the rebellious heart of his creatures, it is here. The painful reality is that suffering is something each and every one of us must deal with. Often. But whenever it comes, however it comes, we have a choice: I can either waste it or I can use it. I have taught this great truth to my kids, and even though they feel horrible, when they say out loud for whom they are suffering, I can see a physical difference in the way they carry themselves. I wanted to share this with you all since Dominic’s emergency has made me slow down and contemplate the meaning of suffering. I am convinced that his mission is to lead us and others to Christ, and he is succeeding in his mission once again. We have had an out pouring of prayers and support, which has been overwhelming. Please keep Dominic in your prayers for a speedy recovery.
Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us!
Sacred Heart of Jesus, Have Mercy on Us!