“Accepting the Lord’s Answer,” Ensign, Oct. 1999, 62–63
My son Kelly braced his heels against the ambulance stretcher on which he lay, and with one arm reaching toward me he pleaded, “I want on your lap.” With brimming eyes and aching heart, I tried to soothe him: “Not now, Kelly. We’ll take you to the hospital, and the doctor will make you better.”
These words gave little comfort to a two-year-old who had always found refuge in my arms, but I couldn’t take him on my lap this afternoon. He was restricted by the intravenous lines in his arm and in his ankle that delivered blood to keep him alive. And moving him might have increased his internal bleeding. He couldn’t understand why, but I could not take him in my arms to comfort him. Then he lapsed into unconsciousness again, and I continued praying silently.
I had been praying since I realized Kelly was hurt. Partially supported by his six-year-old sister, he had walked toward me with a vacant look on his face, his legs moving in a limp, mechanical way, scuffing up the Arizona desert sand. “Mama,” Kathy called to me, “a horse kicked Kelly!” There were no tears, no sign of pain, only an odd look on his face and a puppetlike movement of his legs. Then he collapsed. I ran to him and lifted his limp form. Seeing the rolling of his eyes, I was engulfed with terror. Instinctively I prayed, “Oh, Father, help him,” as I ran to the car.
Laying Kelly on the front seat, I called to my other three children, “Stay here! I don’t have time to wait for you.” Then I sped toward the small Indian reservation hospital half a mile away. I carried Kelly from the car to the hospital, where a white-coated man directed me to the emergency room. As I explained what had happened, several nurses and doctors converged at the examination table. “Get an IV started,” a doctor ordered. Within seconds a nurse had started an IV in Kelly’s arm.
“He’s losing blood too fast. Get another one in his ankle,” directed the doctor. Kelly’s vein had already collapsed, so the doctor made an incision to find another vein. Only an occasional click of instruments or a muttered half sentence disturbed the dreamlike quality of the scene as five persons worked intently over the motionless little figure, their white uniforms spotless under the gleam of the surgical lights.
No one had explained what was wrong with my son or how seriously he was injured. Being left to guess, I alternated between hope and hopelessness. Feeling helpless and nauseated, I wandered into the hall. Resting my head on my hand, I did the only thing I could: pray. “Father, I beg Thee to preserve his life. And please don’t let him feel the pain.”
A doctor came out the swinging doors and spoke to the admitting nurse: “Call the air base and find out how soon they can get a helicopter here. We’ve got to get him to Tucson. This boy needs surgery, and we can’t do it.”
Since a helicopter crew couldn’t be assembled in less than 30 minutes, the doctor decided an ambulance would get Kelly the 60 miles to Tucson faster. As Kelly was lifted onto the ambulance stretcher, he opened his eyes and looked around for me. A nurse pointed to me and cheerfully said, “There’s your mama.” She turned to me and said, “He’s perking up a bit now.” The terrible weight of fear lifted slightly.
Kelly hovered on the edge of consciousness for most of the race to Tucson. I watched as his belly swelled slowly, filling with blood. The two transfusions couldn’t keep pace with his loss of blood, and he drifted more frequently into unconsciousness.
As we neared Tucson, a highway patrolman, who had been waiting for us, pulled from the side of the road and escorted us to the hospital with sirens blaring. When we pulled up to the hospital, a man in green scrubs ran out. He opened the ambulance door and, being careful not to disturb the IVs, rolled Kelly away from me. As the metal doors swung between us, Kelly cried out, “Mama! Mama!”
Inside the waiting room I was amazed to see my sister-in-law. She said that a friend on the reservation had called and was taking care of my other children. A little later a woman handed me a pad of forms and asked, “Will you sign here? This authorizes exploratory surgery.” I signed. Then there was nothing to do but wait.
Moments later my husband came. He embraced me without words, and we sat in silence. Gradually other friends and neighbors arrived, and one asked a nurse if we could use an empty room for prayer. In an unused office we bowed our heads, and my brother-in-law prayed: “Father, restore this child to health if it be Thy will. And send Thy Spirit to comfort his parents.”
I felt strength and consolation engulf me as warmth comes over a person entering a heated room from the cold outside. I didn’t feel assurance Kelly would get well, but I knew that whatever happened, the Lord was overseeing events and I could bear it.
Four hours later a doctor reported that our son had a 50–50 chance of living. An hour later another doctor approached us to explain more completely. “Your son’s liver has been shattered. We’ve tried to sew it together, but he’s lost twice his normal supply of blood. Despite constant transfusions, he’s in shock. If he can come out of shock, he’ll probably live, but right now his chances are very poor.”
When at last a nurse showed us to the intensive-care ward, I was shocked at the blue shadows on Kelly’s face. I could hardly feel this was my son. His body seemed an empty shell left behind by a spirit already departed to another place. Through the night we watched as he drew his breath at longer and longer intervals.
At 6:30 the next morning Kelly drew his last breath. Shortly afterward I left the hospital mourning but dry eyed, still strengthened by the warm consolation that had come over me during our family prayer. A loving Father in Heaven had answered no to our prayers that Kelly might live. But He had carried me in His arms of love, and His Comforter had brought me peace.