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My Personal 9-11

A Mother's Spiritual Journey

As soon as I tuned into the theme of prayer this week, I instantly knew what I had to share. Sometimes we experience defining moments in our lives and this is definitely one of those. It was September 11, 2001, a day that our country was in shock, angered and questioning everything we knew. What I did not know was later that evening, my personal world was also going to be shaken.   

Driving my kids home after picking them up from daycare, I noticed my daughter was not herself. She had her head against the window and while asking her if they had talked at school about the four planes crashing, she just said she had the worst headache. Kids don’t typically get headaches, so that was concerning and I ended up taking her to Urgent Care after dinner. The doctor said it was probably a sinus infection, wrote a script for the pink stuff and sent us home. She was exhausted so I tucked her into bed after giving her a dose of the medication.

I went to check in on her a little while later and she was thrashing all over the bed, and at that moment our lives were forever different. She was rushed to the hospital and needed to be transported to a larger one; however, all planes were downed, including Life Flight. A high-tech ambulance had to pick her up, which meant it contained more advanced lifesaving equipment for the ride. My mom and I followed the ambulance having no idea what was going on, although the ER physician was a Neurologist and said her condition was really bad.

Once she was checked into the NICU at Toledo Children’s Hospital they explained she was posturing, which is when the hands and feet go rigid and are curling up. It’s a sign of abnormal brain activity and tested later revealed she had Viral Encephalitis following a Varicella vaccine a few weeks earlier. They needed to put her in a medically induced coma to try to get her brain swelling down. The doctor looked me right in the eyes and told me she might not make it through the night. I was in denial though. How could my 8-year-old who was the picture of health be on life support? I refused to even consider she would die.

A few days later, the nurses shooed me out of her room so they could do whatever it is they do while you are gone, and I went to the common area down the hall. Another family that was there was going through something similar, and the room was full- Aunt, Uncles, Cousins, Grandparents and they were all sobbing. I couldn’t help but overhear their loved one was brain dead and the doctors wanted to pull her off life support. She had been the picture of health as well until a few days ago. It was at that moment that I realized if their daughter could die, so could mine.

I left that room and found a dark quiet room, where people went to nap and hit my knees. I had not been spiritual, relied more on facts and numbers to get through life. I worked in lending, and had an Accounting degree. We were raised Catholic, but just went to church on Christmas and Easter and honestly not every year. But I hit my knees on the cold, hard hospital floor and promised God if He would spare my daughter in any condition, I would do whatever He wanted me to. I made promises and deals and cried out. And I meant every word.

Marissa woke up after 5 days on life support. She knew who everyone was, what her name was, and most things she needed to know. I am not saying there wasn’t a long recovery ahead- she was left with epilepsy and years of healing; but she graduated with her high school class, she works as a Caregiver and just started Nursing School this month. I kept that promise to God, although my own spiritual journey has changed over the years to one of more enlightenment than religion. Prayer got me through her illness, through a divorce, through job loss and change, and difficult years raising a child with health issues and a spirited little boy with a mind of his own. Maybe God saved her, maybe it wasn’t her time to leave. I’m not sure, but prayer works.

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