“Don’t borrow trouble,” she said. She was a nurse at Arkansas Children’s hospital in Little Rock where our son had just been admitted. He was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Tubes and wires found their way from his tiny body to machines that monitored more vital signs than I can recount. Those wires and tubes were not the problem. Neither was the fact that he was 40 miles away from his mother who was recovering and still in the hospital. The trouble I was borrowing was triggered by the possibility of a disease the implications of which I was only beginning to explore.
Ten weeks earlier Diane’s pregnancy had taken a bad turn. Often when that happens women are confined to bed until the child is born. Diane had managed to go 10 weeks after the amniotic sac had ruptured and fluid began to leak from her body. She took her temperature every day to monitor the possibility of infection. On January 5 her temperature went up. Soon after that, contractions began. Stephen was born that day. Three pounds, twelve-and-a-half ounces of remarkably healthy baby boy.
Three days later, as I sat in my office before Sunday School and worship, the phone rang. “Dave, the doctor wants to talk with us.”
“OK…Is he there now?”
“No. But he wants to talk with us this morning. Can you come up here? You don’t need to hurry.”
I couldn’t really understand that statement. I needed to come to the hospital right away, but I didn’t need to hurry. I didn’t understand, but I made quick arrangements for the Adult Bible Class and left for the hospital. I imagined that I would be able to be back in time for worship.
When I got to the hospital the doctor soon appeared. “You’ll remember that I said that we might need to send your baby to Arkansas Children’s Hospital. But the only reason we would need to do that is if I didn’t understand what’s going on with your baby. And I don’t understand what’s going on.” He was doing all he could to reassure us. “They have some very smart docs up there. It’s a teaching hospital. We have all the equipment we could possibly need here, but I don’t really understand what’s going on, and I want to have a couple of docs take a look at him.”
“We have a mobile intensive care unit, and we’ll take him safely up there. You can follow along in your car, or whatever you want. He’ll be perfectly safe.”
The doctor said “mobile intensive care unit,” but I knew he was talking about a truck. That’s what an ambulance is, after all. It’s a truck. It may be a quite fancy and well-equipped. But it’s still a truck.
“Can I baptize him first?” I asked.
“Sure. Yes, please do. You can do that now and then do it again at your church,” he offered.
I really wasn’t worried about baptizing him again at the church. I just wanted to connect Stephen with some very specific Bible promises through this “washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” that is baptism.
We went to the NICU, got a styrofoam cup of water and baptized him, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” We prayed the Lord’s prayer. I kissed him and Diane goodbye and went back to church. Right after worship, I went to Little Rock and Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
Sometime that day I learned two significant terms: meconium ileus, and cystic fibrosis (CF). The former is a baby’s first stool that gets blocked in his or her small intestine. It is almost always a sign of CF.
The more I learned about CF the more distressed I became. It is genetic. That means that Diane and I were both carriers of the recessive gene responsible for the disease. So would be our children. So would be our siblings, and possibly our cousins as well. CF is a dread disease which had no cure (as still does not, as far as I am aware). Life expectancy is 20 years. Everywhere I turned I saw our future gravely impacted by this disease.
The nurse happened to see me as I was expressing these worries and beginning to talk about calling our family members to alert them to the potentially dire situation.
“Don’t borrow trouble,” she urged. You really don’t know the whole story yet.”
Indeed we didn’t know the whole story. That would unfold over the next several weeks until Stephen was old enough to sweat so that they could do a sweat chloride test.
When that time came and the results were negative (good!), I breathed a sigh of relief that betrayed the fact that I had borrowed trouble – in spite of myself. Having seen God’s faithful hand at work in our child’s life, I was better able to handle the issues that would unfold in the years to come.
It was a time of intensive spiritual growth, prayer, and trust in God. (Tomorrow)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
7 Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
8 It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones. – Proverbs 3:5-8