Just as I was about to go to bed in one of the tiny rooms off the Parent Lounge, a new family arrived and we got chatting. The parents were young--barely in their 20s--and were accompanied by their mothers. Their little boy, Levi, was five months old. He was in for open-heart surgery, too. He even he had the same surgeon as Sam.
They said he was born with Williams Syndrome, a chromosomal abnormality that caused a range of problems, including narrowing of the blood vessels in the heart. Levi had already had eight hours of heart surgery that day, and after a mere hour back in PICU, he was rushed back to theatre in an effort to save his life.
It was just after midnight when I said my goodnights and told Levi's parents I'd be praying for him. As I lay on the narrow bed in the tiny room, I thought about Sam and all the other children I had come to know in the short time we'd been in hospital. I prayed for them all.
I slowly drifted off to sleep, my prayers still echoing in my mind, when the silence was shattered by the most gut-wrenching sound. The young father I had spoken with earlier was wailing, "Please! Just let me say goodbye. Please, I want to say goodbye to my baby!"
A wave of nausea washed over me as the young mum's cries joined with his. "God, no! Please, God, no. It's not real. Someone tell me it's not real."
As tears streamed down my face, I swallowed my sobs. I knew the unthinkable had happened and had the sudden, overwhelming urge to be near my baby.
As I changed back into my clothes, I prayed a simple prayer. God, I prayed, If there's anything I can do to help this family, I'm here. Please use me.
It was then I heard the snippet of conversation, "He's not dead yet. They said they'd do everything they could to save him."
As I left the Parent Lounge, I passed through the family all huddled together, tears flooding their faces. I had no words that could ease their sorrow or their fear but I had to say something-- no matter how inadequate. "I'm so sorry things aren't going well. I'll be praying for Levi."
I spent the night next to Sam's bed, praying fervently for this little boy I'd never met but I knew was loved beyond belief. A few hours later, I was asked to leave PICU. They were bringing a very sick baby back from surgery: Levi.
Levi's family had grown since I had last seen them, with grandfathers, aunts and uncles added to the mix. Sprawled on floors and couches, sharing blankets and pillows, this family was living the worst night of their lives. Even so, they were living it together. And this night, they invited me to join them.
As I sat with them, I learned that a doctor had been sent to tell them that Levi had had a cardiac arrest and his prognosis was not good. It was their response to this news that I had heard through the paper-thin walls. After I had returned to PICU however, another nurse came with the news Levi's little heart had started again. Some four hours after that, the staff were stabilising Levi in the bed next to Sam. His chest was still open and he was on heart-lung bypass.
As daylight broke, Levi's parents were finally allowed in to see him and, one by one, the other family members went home. Levi's paternal grandmother was the last to leave. She hugged me before she left, whispering, "It was such a blessing having you here tonight. You made it so much easier. Thank you."
Sadly, Levi died the day after we left PICU. His little heart was simply too damaged. I long for the day when his parents will get to hold him again, and he'll be healthy and strong and whole. Although I don't understand God's ways, I am comforted by knowing I was there to offer a little comfort as we waited together. What's more, who can say but that you have been elevated to the palace for just such a time as this? Esther 4:14. Karen Collum is a mother and writer, who lives in Brisbane, Queensland.
This story is used with permission from Signs Publishing Company. More of these stories can be found in these collections: Ordinary People—Extraordinary God, Ordinary People—Faithful God, and Ordinary People—Generous God