Saturday 9th July 2011 was the darkest day in the life of our family. We had travelled to Tenerife just a few days earlier for a very welcome holiday. It had been a busy few months and our son Aaron had not been in the best of form – Nicola & I hoped that the holiday would bring much needed refreshment to us all. However Aaron had not improved and we called a local doctor on the evening of Friday 8th July who diagnosed dehydration and a tummy bug.
In a dramatic turn of events the next morning it became clear when Aaron suddenly lost consciousness that something much more serious was wrong. Within minutes a doctor, two nurses and three paramedics were on hand fighting for his life. Our apartment resembled a scene from E.R. with drips and tubes and monitors attached to our critically ill son while the floor was littered with discarded needles and vials used in the lengthy attempt to bring him around. An hour later he was deemed stable enough to be moved by ambulance to the emergency clinic nearby. Nicola and I travelled in the front while the team worked on Aaron the whole way to the clinic. After a series of tests which yielded no answers while Aaron gradually deteriorated it was decided to do a CT scan.
Holding Aaron in the scanner I saw the face of the radiographer as the image formed in front of him and knew the news was not good. He had a brain tumour and of even more immediate threat he had an immense amount of pressure on the brain which was threatening to kill him within hours. They drained some fluid to relieve the pressure and then transferred Aaron to a major hospital in the capital city, Santa Cruz for emergency surgery.
Thankfully there was a neurosurgeon available and that night he underwent an operation to place a permanent shunt in the brain to drain the excess fluid generated by the tumour. We were told that he might never wake from the surgery and that even if he did there could be profound brain damage and blindness! It was a crushing prospect and one we found impossible to contemplate.
But thank God at 2.30am on Sunday morning he woke and recognised us – he couldn’t talk as he was intubated but seemed very alert. His recovery was dramatic but tests confirmed that more surgery was essential and so we eventually transferred back to Ireland with an ICU nurse and a family friend who had come out to support us. In the early hours of Wednesday 20th July we arrived in the children’s neurosurgical ward in Beaumont hospital in Dublin. Surgery quickly followed that Friday and as I write we are finally home with Aaron for a few weeks rest before a six week course of radiotherapy. The prognosis is good and we are very hopeful that Aaron will make a full recovery.
Despite the terrible experience of these last few weeks we have never felt alone. It was difficult being so far from home, from friends and family. The language barrier didn’t help either but the constant messages and prayers via phone, text, email, facebook & twitter were a lifeline for us. Ironically in a previous column you will recall me being very critical of the modern tools of social networking but it was these very networks that kept us going and the kindness not only of friends expressed through them but also of strangers. One facebook friend from Tenerife, Sara travelled the length of the Island with her mother and brother to visit us and bring gifts including blankets to make our stay in the hospital room with Aaron more comfortable, fruit picked from their garden and a compilation of soothing Canarian music she had put together on CD. It was a powerful example of how a virtual friendship can become real.
Our family and friends have all been wonderful but it was this kindness of strangers that moved us the most. There are too many instances to repeat but all of them demonstrate the potential for goodness that is in everyone created in God’s image. God has been present to us through these people – They were the answer to our prayers and the prayers of so many people who have held us up before God at this difficult time. We were and are surrounded by people and situations filled with Gods potential for love and healing. In our darkest hour God was made real through them.
Postscript: Since I wrote this Aaron has had 6 weeks intensive radiotherapy under general anaesthetic daily! He is recovering well and his prognosis is excellent. We look forward to a more healthy 2012