Over a week ago, David and I took Laura to Cincinnati Children's Hospital to see what wisdom the rheumatology department (auto-immune specialists) could offer us. It was a 3-hour drive one-way that started at 6:30 a.m. so we could be to the hospital in time for our appointment, but we were hopeful that this could be the beginning of a new chapter for us. Every staff member and physician treated us with kindness, understanding, and respect; and I was impressed by how quickly we were seen, how much time our specialist gave us, and how they bent over backward to help Laura feel safe in a new place full of strange faces.
After physical exams, symptom surveys, and a long conversation; the physician we met with simply said, "You're probably familiar with what this could be, but we don't have any clear answers or treatments for what Laura is struggling with. Just keep treating the symptoms." Not going to lie to you, I cried. And couldn't stop. I couldn't even talk. Dave had to try to close the conversation and ask intelligent questions while I pulled myself together. I looked at my daughter, sitting in her chair like she wanted to hide from the whole world, watched her struggling to make it through the day while also confused by the fact that no one around her seemed to share her perspective of extreme anxiety. And I had no hope to offer her that this would get better. The ride home was quiet and painful. All three hours of it for all three passengers.
Two days later at church, a lovely momma asked me how we were doing, and I lost it. Completely started crying and could not stop. The heartsickness of watching my child struggle with pain every day while also powerlessly seeing her emotional and physical health deteriorate just kept washing over me. And by the grace of God, I broke down with the right momma who was not afraid of our brokenness... who hugged my neck, lifted me up to the Father, and has continued to pray for me daily as we live from one moment to the next.
And I know she was not the only one lifting us up. We hear you, family of God. When your card arrives at the exact moment that we need encouragement, when your text dings on my phone at the beginning of a challenging day, it is no accident or chance. It is God's very grace to us, reminding us that we are not alone. That someone else believes in the good work He is doing in and through us as we fight for our daughter, for her siblings, for ourselves to truly LIVE in freedom. God has answered your prayers with peace when we should be riddled with anxiety. Strength when we should have fallen apart. Creativity when our minds were numb. And help.
Last Wednesday, I took Benjamin to see a specialist who has helped a lot of kids with autism to feel better, live better, think better. Before I took him in, I found out from a friend that this particular doctor had also had success in treating children with PANDAS even though her office said she only saw children with autism diagnoses. So I packed up both children and sat in the smallest exam room I have ever been in to find some answers. She took one look at our family's medical history and said, "It's all related." To summarize, she thinks our family has genetic sensitivities to toxins that are a part of modern society. In order to lessen the inflammation in our bodies and work towards healing, I now have a 15-point list of things to read, do, or consider. But do you know what else I have? Hope.
This doctor was kind, sensitive, thoughtful, and knowledgeable. She gave us her full attention, put together a plan specific to Ben's needs (Laura will have an appointment on April 1.), and sent us home with a backpack full of hope. The struggles we now have CAN get better. Laura CAN heal. And we have a medical practitioner who is willing to walk this journey with us from start to finish.
So we're giving our kids baths in Epsom salts and baking soda every night to boost their magnesium. We're slathering their skin in coconut oil and boosting their fish oil intake. We're switching to a dairy-free, gluten-free diet for the entire family. And we're taking a swing at the other 12 points of the plan in the hopes that respecting an anti-inflammatory lifestyle for a year or two could help our bodies find healing and lead to a less restrictive diet for us all as our bodies detox and heal.
This week another sweet momma at church looked me square in the eyes and said, "I have so much hope for you!" My eyes just started watering again. As hard as this will be and as much as we will give up to walk this journey, we do have hope. We have a heavenly Physician who has also provided an earthly physician within an hour's drive of our home, and we are thankful.
And we are thankful for you. When cards arrive in my mailbox from people I don't even know or someone texts me with information I just happened to need, I am reminded that God doesn't need me. That all of the responsibility for Laura's health is not resting on my shoulders. God can heal her without my lifting a finger. I pray with all my heart He would heal her today, but even if He doesn't, He is good, sovereign, and kind. He has never left us alone, and His plans are for our good, for our daughter's good, and for His glory. We are bearing up for a moment. He is preparing us for eternity. And He has given us hope when we needed it most.