Christmas is a time that people typically associate with “miracles.” There are movies, television shows and songs that all display this theme. In Christian circles, we talk about the “miracle of Jesus’ birth,” but few of us recognize the day-to-day miracle in our own lives. For me, this was an ethereal idea, but hard to pinpoint with actual examples. It was easy to philosophize about, but difficult to see. Of course, there were the petty examples of finding a prime parking spot during the holiday bustle. Or, getting a seat on the train into the city. Or, finding the perfect gift, in the perfect size, on sale. But, the actual life-changing miracle of Christmas… well, that was just a passage in Luke.
That is until this year. My parents were coming to visit us and I was thankful that I was not going to have to travel. I was excited to spend the holidays with them at home. I wanted everything to be perfect. I worked hard at getting the preparations completed before my parents’ arrival so that once they were here, we could just enjoy our time together. I bought tickets to see the Nutcracker. We were going to take an evening train ride through the canyon. I wanted to do a little shopping with my mom. We were going to bake cookies and put together Gingerbread Houses. I was excited that they were going to be here for the children’s piano recital and the baby’s preschool program (he was the cutest, little sheep). I had great expectations for the Christmas season.
They arrived on a Thursday and we immediately started ticking things off my list. Friday, preschool program – check. Saturday, piano recital – check. Sunday, Nutcracker Ballet – check. Then things slowed down. My husband, Larry and I were going to have to take a quick trip to Los Angeles to help his family with something that had come up. I felt badly leaving, but I was also grateful that my parents were here and could help take care of our children. We decided to take the 2-year-old (Matthias) with us so the they only had to concentrate on the schedules of the older 3. We were only going to be gone one night, maybe two.
Sunday night, as I was busy relaying the children’s schedules to my mom, I noticed Matthias felt a little warm. We all were lacking sleep, so I figured that he maybe just needed to catch up. With the activities of the previous few days, he had missed a few naps and gone to bed late. I knew that we were going to be leaving really early in the morning, so I put him to bed for the evening. Just in case, I packed some Motrin, but I didn’t expect to have to use it.
We woke up early and got on the road at 4 o’clock in the morning. Matthias still felt warm, but I rationalized that he still needed more sleep. Once we arrived in LA, we immediately started our tasks. I had a detailed to-do list and a plan to accomplish those items. I decided to give Matthias some of the Motrin. Larry and I had a couple of meetings, we got stuck in traffic, we went to a large furniture store and finally stopped for lunch. While sitting down to eat, I noticed a small rash starting to develop on Matthias’ left forearm. By the time we left the restaurant, there were also a few bumps on his left cheek. Larry and I decided that we had better get him some Benadryl in case he was experiencing an allergic reaction.
That night we got to the hotel and Matthias felt hot. I did not have a thermometer with me, but I was up most of the night with him. I started giving him the Motrin every 6 hours (a regiment that would continue for the next few days). By the time Tuesday morning arrived, the rash had spread to his entire body. His hands and feet were swollen, he was irritable and he no longer wanted to walk. We immediately took him to an Urgent Care a couple of blocks from the hotel. The doctor there told us that it was a rash in reaction to a virus and would likely clear up on its own in a few days. She told us to continue the Benadryl. I argued that the Benadryl had not worked at all. In fact, the rash continued to worsen after taking the medicine. She prescribed a stronger Benadryl.
We carried out the rest of our tasks, continued the Motrin and planned to return home the next day. That evening we were thrown off by an emergency car accident in Larry’s family. By the grace of God, no one was hurt. We were not able to return to the hotel until after midnight. During all the commotion, I started to notice that the white part of Matthias’ eyes had now turned red. Larry and I decided that Matthias and I should fly home while he stayed an extra day to tie up some loose ends with his family.
After another sleepless night with an irritable baby, we woke up Wednesday morning. I called Matthias’ doctor and made an appointment for later that afternoon. Our flight landed early afternoon. I had just enough time to come home, eat something and hug my other children before heading out to the doctor. We waited at the doctor while children with the flu, asthma attacks and broken limbs were all seen. When the doctor was finally able to see us, she took one look at Matthias and said that she is pretty sure he has something called Kawasaki Disease. “Kawa-what?” I said. She told me that it is a very rare, but treatable disease that can affect the heart. She told me that I was going to have to take him to Children’s Hospital and that I should expect to be there 1 or 2 days. I was dazed. I immediately called Larry and had her explain all of that to him on the phone. I knew that he was going to have questions that I was too shocked and sleep deprived to be able to answer.
On my way home, I called my best friend and gave her a 30 second run down of the past 3 days. I told her that I would call her once I got to the hospital. I also called my dad. He was going to have to take me to the hospital so that he and my mom would have a car to be able to continue to help us take care of the other children. At home, I grabbed my bag that I had not unpacked, threw in some clean clothes, kissed my other children and headed with my dad to Oakland Children’s Hospital.
My dad waited with me for a few hours. My friend, Maya came and brought me dinner. Larry got on the road and started driving. The doctor in came and said we needed to do some tests. As word spread that there was a “Kawasaki Case,” intern, after resident, after doctor came to examine “him” (They were all a little too excited to see the disease). Apparently, Matthias was a textbook case, displaying all the typical symptoms. In the 6 hours that we were in the ER, 5 different doctors and countless nurses came to see “him.”
It was almost midnight before they finally admitted us to the hospital. He had a 102.4 temperature, but they refused to give him any more medicine. In order to get a true diagnosis of Kawasaki Disease, Matthias needed to run a high fever for 5 consecutive days. Thursday would make the 5th day. Sometime close to 1 in the morning, Larry arrived at the hospital. Maya waited with us until 2:30 am. Throughout the night, they continued to take his vitals, but refused him medicine.
Thursday morning (later Thursday morning), a team of 5 new doctors came in to see “him.” They all examined him and decided it was time to actually diagnose him with Kawasaki Disease. They started talking amongst themselves about tests, treatment protocols and observation periods. After doing some mental math, they concluded that if everything went perfectly, Matthias could go home late Sunday afternoon. Sunday afternoon? Today was Thursday and Sunday was Christmas. Were we really going to have to delay Christmas? What about the other children? I started to cry. Larry rubbed my back and the doctors left the room. Larry reassured me that we would make it work no matter what. We both agreed that we needed to concentrate on getting Matthias well. Larry went home to shower and see the other children.
I went with Matthias to have his heart scan and echocardiogram. He was frantic. The procedure took 45 minutes and he screamed the entire time. By the time it was over, he collapsed into my arms and fell asleep. That afternoon, Maya returned to the hospital with some soup for me. Larry’s dad came to visit and another friend came to visit also. The text messages and phone calls started to pour in. Larry returned to the hospital with a package from a friend of mine. She had sent a mini Christmas tree with ornaments, a big stuffed dog, and some hot wheels. This generosity started the tears flowing again.
Matthias was started on a 12-hour intravenous drip called IVIG that administered antibodies to his system. While initially on the medicine, his vitals needed to be taken every 15 minutes. After they upped the dosage and he was able to tolerate the amount, they were able to only check his vitals every hour. After only a few hours, the fever went away and the rash started to fade. It was a miracle. I could not believe how quickly the medicine was working. He even ate part of a sandwich. The cardiologist came to see him. She told us that his heart was strong and looked completely normal. Another miracle. At this point, Maya lovingly told me that I could benefit from a shower. She lives only 2 miles from the hospital and insisted that I go to her house to take a little break. I was hesitant, but I went.
Her girls had made up a bed for me and set out some towels. Her husband made me a cup of coffee. I stepped into the shower and finally felt free to really cry. I sobbed hot salty tears as the water poured and washed them from my face. All the fears, anxiety, exhaustion, and relief fell from my eyes. I knew Matthias was going to be okay. After my shower, I laid down and slept for about 40 minutes. I returned to the hospital and found my baby boy resting peacefully. Larry returned home to sleep and I stayed at the hospital. They continued to check Matthias’ vitals every hour and he continued to grow increasingly fearful of doctors and nurses. It was not an easy night, but we got through it.
By Friday morning, Matthias appeared to be a completely different baby. He ate half a cup of dry cereal, some fruit, and a cup of yogurt. This was the most he had eaten all week. He had responded beautifully to the treatment. While Matthias continued to improve, he asked for more and more food. Over the next 2 days, he ate pizza, French fries, hamburgers… But, the miracles did not stop there.
On Saturday morning, after a persuasive conversation with Larry, the doctors agreed to let Matthias go home that night. They had never broken this protocol before, but given the improvement that Matthias showed, they agreed to let him spend Christmas at home. WHAT A MIRACLE FROM HEAVEN! Late on Christmas Eve, we were able to take our baby home. Our other children were elated.
On the drive home, Larry and I reflected on the miracles of this Christmas. We were obviously overjoyed with the miracle of Matthias’ health and being able to come home for Christmas, but there was also another equally great miracle that we both experienced.
Christmas is a time of year when everybody has a lot going on in their lives. People are doing last minute shopping. There are Christmas parties, recitals, and school programs. Relatives travel in town to visit. People travel out of town to visit their relatives. There are church services and presents to wrap. During all of this, we were bombarded by the gracious generosity of our community. Our friends called us and prayed with us. Our friends brought meals to the hospital. Our friends brought meals to our home. Our friends offered to wrap our Christmas gifts for us. Our friends brought more gifts to us and sent us flowers. Our friends baked cookies and bars and brought them to us. Our friends visited us at the hospital. Our friends read scripture to us. Our friends made sure that we were taking care of ourselves. Our pastors came to the hospital and prayed with us. There were countless phone calls, emails, and text messages. During a time when it is hard to fit everything in, our community dropped everything and came to our side. They stood with us to let us know that we were not fighting this alone.
It reminded me of another Christmas miracle. When Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph were away from home. They did not have their friends and family to surround them with love and support. And yet, God still provided them with an eager, supportive community to welcome the baby.
Luke 2 tells us,
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”
We want to thank you all for your kindness, generosity and thoughtfulness. They are my Christmas miracle; my treasure and I am pondering them in my heart. We give all the glory to God for all of you.
Natasha & Larry Tripplett