Earlier that day, during a dialysis treatment, I unexpectedly went into respiratory arrest. The medical team did chest compressions for seven minutes to get my heart restarted after I stopped breathing.
Now as I was regaining consciousness that evening I awoke to find myself, family by my side I had this vague sensation of a machine making rhythmic noises near my head…in the Intensive Care Unit at Vanderbilt Hospital. A ventilator providing life support was controlling my breath.
My memory had stopped at the moment I told the nurse, “I’m struggling to breath!” I can’t catch my breath.” I have no recollection of what ensued until I begin to wake up later that evening.
As I regained consciousness, it was explained that I had gone into respiratory arrest that morning and my heart had stopped beating for seven minutes.
With a tube down my throat, I tried to make hand gestures to my wife, spelling words in the air but she could not understand anything I was trying to communicate. So I gestured for a pen and paper.
I clumsily wrote a one-word question. The one thing I had to know.
I wanted to know if what I had just experienced had resulted in any long-term damage to my heart, lungs, brain, and nervous system.
With smiles and the squeeze of my hand, they reassured me that apparently there was no long-term damage.
That night I lay wide-awake in the ICU all night long with one thought.
I was filled with the desire, motivation, and longing to see my son with special needs.
Not for a minute did I think about the hardships, challenges, or trials we had faced and endured as special-needs parents.
Not for a minute did I think abut the difficulties and strain on our every day lives we faced as special-needs parents.
Not for a minute did I think about cerebral palsy, autism, epilepsy, seizures and our upside-down world.
Life as a special-needs parent involves stepping through a minefield of emotions every day. You never know which one you will step on and cause to explode from day to day.
None of that mattered anymore. None of that came to my mind.
All I could think about was sitting on the couch beside my son again. Letting him play with my hand as I sang softly to him. Holding him, talking to him, and just enjoying being with him. I thought about how I swing him at night as I pray blessings over him. How I serve him by feeding him his supper every night.
Those chores had became blessings in my head when it mattered most.
As special needs parents it is so easy for us to lower our gaze to the mundane and crazy. It’s so easy for us to get lost in the minefield of special needs parenting. It’s so easy to focus and dwell on the negativity, the difficulty, and the hardships this journey in life calls for us to endure.
It’s easy to be consumed by negativity, despair, and weariness.
But as someone who just returned from a sojourn through the valley of the shadow of death, listen to me when I tell you this, when your life stops momentarily and you have time to pause and reflect, only one thing will come to mind…
Your love for your child will be all you will remember. You will realize that, in the end, love really does win.
And you will realize that your love for your child more than makes up for anything else. And you, like me, won’t regret the struggles and daily trials. You will lie awake, as I did, wishing you could go back and experience them all again.
Love bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, and endures all things.
1 Corinthians 13:7
Do you struggle with focusing on the challenges in life so intently that you have difficultly finding joy and contentment along the way?
By Jeff Davidson
Husband to Becky, Father of one
1 Corinthians 13 Parenting Team Member
Rising Above Ministries
Author of No More Peanut Butter Sandwiches: a father, a son with special needs, and their journey with God