Blood Red Days

Children aren’t supposed to get sick.  Romanticized images of childhood days picture little darlings running, jumping, climbing, laughing, living life as freely as a butterfly flitting from flower to flower.  Even in prayer, when most solemn, those cherubic faces glow with rosebud color.  So it should be, forever and ever.

Unfortunately strange bugs invade, causing any possible varieties of illness.  Most we understand.  Tonsillitis, ear infections, colds, cuts, bruises, and even the occasional broken bone fall into that realm.  Kids are susceptible to germs, primarily because they play with “germy” things, and so we expect them to fall ill. But we pray that those times are few and far between.

When your four-year-old child’s urine turns the color of burgundy wine, however, the only normal reaction is fear.  So it was for my husband and I when it happened to our six year old daughter.

When it first occurred, we tried not to panic so as to not alarm our daughter. What we did do was make phone calls and tons of doctors’ visits.   We began with the pediatrician who treated the early occurrences as bladder infections, with rounds of antibiotics as a hopeful cure. When that didn’t do the trick, we were referred to a family urologist who was used to treating senior citizens who would willingly allow tubes and prodding. Not our daughter. She fought him with the strength of an army, clenching shut her legs and refusing to budge. I didn’t blame her. I thought the doctor a little too interested in seeing what was between my child’s legs

Our next doctor was a pediatric urologist/oncologist.  Imagine the fears those words triggered. Oncology. Cancer. Curable or not? We didn’t know or understand what the doctor was going to do. How he was going to make the determination, but we made the appointment and went to see him.

Months had passed by now, and the color of her urine had deepened from a subtle pink to a deep, dark red. It was frightening, to not only us, but to our daughter. Even a small child understands that urine was not supposed to be that color.

For my daughter’s sake, we put on happy faces. We attempted to disguise our deep-seated fears.  When she was out of visual range, we gathered close together and allowed ourselves to cry.  Of course, we prayed.

There were days when her urine was a healthy golden color and we tried to convince ourselves that she was cured. We wept with joy and gave thanks to the Lord.  But the space between those times slowly expanded, until it was pretty much guaranteed that we would see red, and only red.

Antibiotics proved ineffective, and so the pediatric urologist ordered x-rays to search for the still unknown cause.

Off we went to Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley, California, one of the finest hospitals in the Bay Area.  Our daughter, now five, was placed on a cold, metal table.  She was given huge quantities of liquid to drink.  The x-ray machine was lowered until it hovered above my little girl’s lower abdomen.  She was told to urinate, right there on the table, in front of five total strangers.  She couldn’t do it and I didn’t blame her.

The next step involved the insertion of a tube which would allow the urine to flow.  Pictures were taken and analyzed.  We went home and waited, impatiently, to hear the results.  When they came, we were terrified and confused. Because of the way her bladder was constructed, it was unable to fully close.  Surgery was recommended and schedule

Within days we drove to Children’s Hospital in Oakland, just as the sun was beginning to peak over the hills.  It was a peaceful scene which helped to ease somewhat our nervousness. It was short-lived, for immediately after completing the required paperwork, she was whisked away by an efficient, yet friendly nurse.

My husband paced the floor of the waiting room, talking to himself.  I prayed, placing my daughter’s life in God’s capable hands.

This operation was a success. Her bladder now would close and allow her to control the flow of urine. However, during the surgery, the doctor discovered that her ureters did not enter the bladder at the correct angle.  Not only that, but the flaps that prevented urine from moving into the kidneys were missing.  Another operation was planned.

Despite the negative news, my husband and I eagerly took our little girl home, hoping that at least there might be some reprieve from the tinged urine.  It was not to be.

Within hours, her urine turned from a healthy golden hue to a blood red, bone-chilling liquid.  Several phone calls later, another trip to the doctor’s was scheduled.  She was again put on a regimen of antibiotics, hoping to stem off any invasion of germs that might interfere with the next operation.

Good Friday found us, once again, in the waiting room of Children’s Hospital.   My husband paced the floor while I pretended to read.  Both of us turned our hearts over to the Lord, again begging Him to watch over our only daughter.

In the midst of one of many recitations of the Our Father, I felt a gentle touch on my right cheek.  Instantly a calm washed over me, settling in my heart.  I nodded, and whispered, “Thanks.”  My eyes filled with tears of joy, and a smile burst through.  I knew, then and there, that everything would be fine.

When the doctor came to us dressed in his surgical greens, he was smiling. While he was inside our daughter’s bladder, he discovered a blood vessel that was weeping, something it was not supposed to do. He cauterized it, forever stopping the flow of blood into her bladder.

Because of the severity of the operation, she had to spend a week in the hospital.  It was scary for us. Imagine how frightening it was for her, spending nights without her parents nearby. The good news was that every day she got stronger.  Every day her urine became clearer.  Every day I gave thanks to the Lord for giving my daughter another day of life.

Those were trying times, for sure.  I had no choice but to rely on my faith, as even the most highly trained, respected pediatric urologist had had no idea what was wrong.  To this day, I firmly believe that the Lord stood by, watching, whispering advice in the doctor’s ear.  How else did he find the exposed vessel, the incorrectly seated ureters, the missing flaps, and the enlarged end of the bladder?

While the likelihood of her bleeding to death had been slim, she could easily have died of kidney failure.  If we had known about this earlier, we could have acted sooner.  For some reason, the Lord kept her alive long enough for medical science to rise to the occasion.

Faith kept me sane.  Faith allowed me to put aside my fears.  Faith was my best friend and constant companion. Thankfully that operation solved the problem and our daughter grew up to be a wonderful woman.

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