She Was Sick

Posted by Linda Handzel

Her heart was beating so fast the nurse couldn’t count her pulse. Our four-year-old daughter mumbled incoherently while the medical staff raced to set up an IV. We watched as her arms and legs broke into hives, causing her to scratch incessantly. Stephanie was going from bad to worse right before our eyes.

It was Monday night, and Stephanie had been vomiting at home for more than twelve hours. Earlier that day our pediatrician had prescribed an oral anti-vomiting medicine, but Stephanie had promptly wretched it back up. At eleven that night when her fever reached 104.9, I called our pediatrician’s covering doctor, and they said to take her to the nearest hospital right away. My husband Michael (Stephanie’s father) was away on business, so a friend came to care for other two small children.

When Dr. Beekman came through the door of the examining room my heart leaped with hope. He was an extremely intelligent man who remembered our family history of allergies and other medical information from previous years when he had been our family pediatrician. God had gone ahead of me.

The doctor worked tirelessly through the night to bring Steph’s fever down. He was optimistic, saying the IV would help and I would be able to take her home in a few hours. But she didn’t stabilize, and by 5 AM she was admitted. The doctor walked beside me holding Steph’s IV bag as I carried her to the pediatric unit. Nurses hurried to follow his orders while he stood by her hot, limp body hand-pumping medicine from the IV bag into her vein because the IV machine wouldn’t pump fast enough. Finally at 5:30 he went home to shower, but was back at 8 AM checking on Stephanie before going to his office. At lunchtime he came again but Stephanie’s fever still hadn’t broken. She lay quietly on the bed, much too quietly for an active four year old. 


Mom came to sit with Stephanie while I went home to get clean clothes. In the quiet of the car, I wondered if God would take our little brown-eyed girl. 

My mind went back to when she was eight months old, and had been sick for a week with uncontrollable diarrhea. Dr. Beekman had tried in vain to kill the bacteria wreaking havoc in Stephanie’s intestines. I had been up with her every night changing her soiled diapers and every day she had leaned against me for hours while I rocked. Daily visits to the doctor revealed she was losing weight, but liquid antibiotics were only making her worse. 

Finally Michael and I knelt beside our bed sobbing in prayer. That night we opened our arms over the bed, symbolizing our surrender: If God wanted to take Stephanie to Heaven, He could have her. The next day the doctor suggested giving antibiotics by injection. In twenty-four hours Stephanie started feeling better, and within a week she was a crawling, happy baby.

As I drove toward home I tearfully recalled that night when we had surrendered Stephanie’s life to God. Choking out the words I prayed: “Lord, I have never taken her back. If You want her, she is Yours.”

A couple of hours later, as I walked back into Steph’s hospital room Mom said: “A lady came looking for you. She wants to talk about insurance.” Insurance! I had totally forgotten about insurance. My fog-filled brain raced through questions. What day is it? How long have we been here? When did we arrive? Fear filled my heart. What if we have passed the twenty-four hour notification deadline, and the insurance won’t cover her stay? 

I had not slept in thirty hours and as I sat at the registrar’s desk, my brain struggled to answer her simple questions. Yes, I have an insurance card. No, I don’t think they have been notified. She let me use the phone and I called our pediatrician’s office. His secretary kindly informed me they had already notified the insurance company, and Stephanie’s admission would be covered. Relief swept over my tired soul. God had gone ahead of me.

Sitting back in the hospital room, my eyes burned like hot coals in my head. I did not dare to slumber, though the nurse urged me to lie in the next bed. Every time the nurses came to do another procedure, I jumped up to make sure Stephanie knew I was there. Evening came, and the fever was only slightly reduced. 

After his office hours, the doctor came back to say he had been in touch with the Children’s Hospital in Boston. They suggested a few things, so he was going to order more tests, but Steph wouldn’t be going home that night. 

I asked our pastor for a hymnal, and over the next couple of days I sang my way through that book. Steph laid there silently, listening to every word. 

I requested a rocking chair and hummed quietly for hours while I rocked with the IV pole beside us.

Meanwhile, our church started a prayer chain for Stephanie and friends took turns caring for our other two children. God was taking care of us.

Wednesday the doctor said he had been talking to someone at The New England School of Medicine about Stephanie, and he named a scary-sounding disease that he wanted to test for. Her fever was slowly going down and she tried to eat a little, but her stomach would have none of it, quickly rejecting every morsel. The tests revealed nothing.

Finally on Thursday her fever broke, and she held food down for the first time that week. Michael arrived home from the conference on Friday, having struggled for eighteen hours to get an early flight home. He arrived just in time to help me take Stephanie home from the hospital.

Although she fully recovered we never found out why Stephanie had been so violently ill. However, I will never forget the first follow-up visit for her to see Dr. Beekman again. He examined her, sat down to make some notes on her chart, and then looked up at us with relief written all over his face: “We have had them come in that bad and not make it.”

I had known her condition was serious, but didn’t understand until then that the doctor had worked all night to pull Stephanie back from the clutches of death.


God is always walking ahead of us preparing the way, even when we don’t know what we will need. He is a loving Father, holding our hearts in His compassionate hands. I don’t understand why God chooses to heal some here and others in Heaven, but I am confident we will find out His perfect plan when we get to Glory.

Stephanie and her husband have given me five grandchildren. God does all things well.


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