Our son Eric has been a source of inspiration to me. He’s the happiest boy around and is interested in everything.
To begin with he was born 7 weeks early on March 23, 1991.They told us he would at least be in the hospital until his due date which was mid May so we were stunned when they told us we could take him home after only 6 days. He was small, just 5 pounds, but a real fighter.
Nursing or bottle feeding – that was the question.
- The next thing they told us was that preemies don’t nurse – especially boy preemies.
- I had nursed my daughters and had such a positive experience I really wanted to nurse Eric too.
- My husband is a physician and knew Eric couldn’t afford to loose any weight so he thought I should bottle him as suggested.
- I had been on bed rest for 3 months due to placenta privia, then had an emergency c-section and lost so much blood that I had a hemoglobin of 7 so I wasn’t going too far.
- I begged Dan to let me just take Eric to bed with me and nurse him whenever he would nurse. With the condition that if he lost any weight that first week I would begin to bottle him.
- He ended up gaining almost a pound and nursed for almost 2 years, which turned out to be a real blessing and leads me to my next point.
When he was 16 months old he got an ear infection. After two series of antibiotics he didn’t seem to be getting any better. On Sunday morning he was crying and just couldn’t be consoled. He had a temperature of 103 and our pediatrician said we should take him to Children’s Hospital. When we arrived there they ran a series of tests and decided to admit him. It was then they told us they thought he had leukemia. We were stunned! How do you go from an ear infection to leukemia? By Tuesday the diagnosis had been confirmed. He had his first bone marrow biopsy, and a Hickman catheter put into his chest. By Wednesday he had the first in a long series of blood transfusions.
My big question was why this had to happen to Eric, but especially why when he was so young. He was the last male child in my husband’s family. We had waited and prayed for him for years and now this.
We entered the world of cancer. Eric would have to undergo three and a half years of chemotherapy. Just the sight of blood made me sick and now I would have to live in the hospital world for over three years. I remember the nurse coming to his room to teach me how to change the dressing on his catheter. I quickly replied, “Oh, my husband will do that.” Her reply was, “Mrs. Sather, we can let you take your son home as soon as you learn to change the dressing.” Needless to say, I drew on God’s grace and learned how to change the dressing. It was a task I would do every other day for the next three years.
With leukemia you never know what a day will bring. Eric would wake up from a nap with a temperature which meant we would have to go to the hospital. Or he would have a reaction to one of the chemotherapy drugs which also meant a trip to the hospital. Or his catheter would fall out which meant emergency surgery. By the time he was 2 years old he had undergone more surgeries than most people have in a lifetime. He had bone marrow biopsies every third month. I would hold him while they pumped the anesthesia into his catheter, one minute he would be talking and playing and the next he would go as limp as death in my arms after which I would hand him to a nurse and race out of the room sobbing.
These are some of the ways I responded, but how did Eric respond? He entered every day with a big smile on his face and a Zip Lock bag of Cheerios in his hand. The nurses at the hospital would say they could always tell when Eric was around because there were Cheerios everywhere because his little two year old hands would drop as many as he ate. He knew all the routines. If the nurses missed a step in preparing him for a test or for surgery he would stop them and remind them of what they were supposed to do next. He knew everyone and had a smile for them all.
One day we were in for a bone marrow biopsy. As we were going through the regular routine of preparation there was a boy next to us who was about 3 years old.
He had just been diagnosed with leukemia but there was a big difference in how he was handling all the procedures. He was fighting and crying and refusing to let the nurses do what needed to be done. It was then the Lord spoke to my heart. Eric had been so young when he was diagnosed that these procedures were a way of life for him. He didn’t know anything else and didn’t think to question them. When he learned his body parts he would proudly announce his Hickman as one of them.
I yielded my heart to the Lord’s wisdom in this situation and saw my biggest question answered. Yes, Eric had been very young to be diagnosed with such a difficult disease, but the Lord had used that for good in his life.
Eric is 25 years old now. He still enters every day with a big smile, but he has gotten rid of the bag of Cheerios. He is healthy and well rounded, enjoys talking about almost everything, loves all sports but also enjoys shopping, especially in little gift shops. I keep saying he will make someone a great husband someday.
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