My two-year-old, Reese, and I left Bible study at Valley church and went by the grocery store on our way home. We had just moved here from Missouri/Texas about three or four months earlier. My parents were coming to visit for the weekend and I needed to get a few things so I could make a cake. Our grocery store gives out a free piece of cheese and a cookie to kids (awesome!) and at this particular store (which is on the other side of town from our house,) they have the cookies in little boxes on the pastry shelves where you can help yourself. Usually R just gets the cheese but she was being particularly sweet, so I decided to reward her with a cookie. I grabbed one that I thought had m&ms on top (her favorite.) I should have realized that the orange and yellow and brown “m&ms” were actually Reese's pieces but I guess I just thought they were colored for fall. So, she started licking the Reese’s pieces and trying to just eat part of the top. I broke it into smaller pieces for her (still not realizing) and then I think she took a tiny bite. I still don't think she really ate much of it... so in the amount of time it took to walk from the donut counter to the baking aisle my little Reesie started acting weird.
She was pulling on her lip and said “Mommy, my lip hurts.” I looked down and it was already SUPER swollen. Immediately, I took a bite of her cookie and realized what had just happened. My heart sank. But no panic yet. I prayed, "Lord be with Reeser’s little body!!!!!" I ran back to the cookie box to see if it really was a peanut butter cookie. Sure enough. What was I thinking? How did I make that mistake?! I'm still very mad at myself for not looking at the label before handing it to her... but it's no good to beat myself up for that now. You better believe I'll be more careful from now on though!!! There was a bakery lady restocking the donuts and I think and I asked her (panic setting in) if they were Peanut Butter cookies and she said with very worried eyes “Oh no, ma'am! We never put PB cookies out for kids!” I pulled the box out and shoved them at her and said “They ARE actually Peanut Butter. Don't put those out again.” (I should probably go apologize to her for being rude. Obviously, it's not her fault!! I was just starting to really freak out!)
By then, (like two minutes later,) Reese was really whining and saying her back hurt – she has this spot on her back that she’s had since she was born that has some sort of clump of histamine cells that flares up when she gets sick or allergic to something, so I guess that’s what she was talking about. It’s like our little radar that shows if she’s flaring up to something – and she just kept saying, “I need DD (her blanket) and Hold you, mommy!!!” Sweet little thing. I was really trying to remain calm…. and keep her calm but…. Golly, it was hard.
We then rushed straight to the pharmacy, like I was literally running through the store. I pulled a box of Benadryl off the shelf and gave her some (because that’s what the pediatrician did the first time when she was 14-months-old and she had her first reaction.)We then ran out to the car to get “DD” because that's all she was asking for. She was starting to get really, really sweaty and a little lethargic, which was seriously freaking me out. We ran back in and I asked the pharmacist what I should do. She pointed to a door right behind me and said they had a Physicians Assistant on staff and she would be helpful. I popped my head in her office and immediately knew God was taking care of us.
Miracle #1 - What grocery store has a PA clinic inside?? Incredible.
At this point, Reese was trying to slide out of my arms and just kept asking to lie down. Somehow, I think while I was talking to the pharmacist for two seconds she got down and laid on the floor of the grocery store. That was when it really clicked that this was getting serious. I picked her up and she was sort of limp and was having a hard time keeping her eyes open. Her face and lips were turning so pale and my heart has never beaten so fast. Now, even reliving this while I'm typing right now I can't hold back the tears. It was so, so, so, scary but I was trying to be brave because I HAD to be. I called my husband, Mark. Of course he didn't answer – he was in his first year of General Surgery Residency at the time. I texted him, “911! Call me NOW!” and thankfully, he called right then.
Miracle #2 - I got to talk to Mark.
That day in his world truly happened to be one of the busiest days of his entire year! No joke. He had several big cases that day and he was the only resident on their service and lots of other things were going on, but... at that moment when I texted him he was scarfing down something for lunch during his only 10 minute break of the day and was literally running down the hall to his next case. If this had happened even 10 minutes earlier or later, I would have missed him. And my Jesus knows I never would have made it without at least hearing his calming voice telling me it would be ok and that we were doing the right thing. So, thank you Jesus for your timing.
While Mark was on the phone with me the PA called 911. Mark said to give her an Epipen, jr and just as I was asking the PA if they had one she turned around with it in her hand ready to give it to Reeser, who was practically passed out at this point and was drenched in sweat in my arms. Maybe the worst thing ever was to see her reaction as that huge needle went into her thigh, but I was a little relieved to hear her screaming so loud and that her face was getting blood back to it. The paramedics came in at that point (they were so fast!!) and Mark gave me instructions on what to do/where to go. In just a few minutes - or maybe even one- Reese seemed to be coming back quickly. I knew she was going to be ok when she opened her eyes and instead of wiping her own face, she grabbed her DD and starting wiping my nose because she saw I was crying. What a sweetheart. She was talking a little. Holding me and “DD” and then she just starting giggling at this picture of giraffes on the wall saying, "Look at those silly giraffes, Mommy! They're so silly." Gosh, I love her. Mark heard her talking and said he was so, so, sorry but he absolutely had to go because he had to scrub in on this important case... blah, blah. Residency is dumb. But, I sure am proud of him. I'm not sure why God had Mark so unavailable to me that day but He sure did teach me a lot through it. Mark said sometimes the nurses will read them text messages if they ask them to during surgery so he said to text him if anything else happens and obviously he would scrub out in a second. And then I boo-hooed and said bye. And then my dear girl wiped my nose and eyes with her DD. What a doll.
I contemplated for a second if we even needed to really go on the ambulance ride and the ER visit, etc. since R seemed to be doing better and honestly, dollar signs were racing through my head (residency is tough, people!)... but I quickly decided God would provide financially as He always does and we better be safe than sorry - especially since it had really only been about four minutes since she was practically passed out and white so... they brought in the stretcher.
I had never been in an ambulance before and I don't actually know if I’d ever been to the ER in an actual emergency (besides when I fell off the monkey bars in kindergarten and the nurse accidentally poured alcohol on my head instead of hydrogen peroxide. Yeah. That was fun.) So, this was all so new to me and I was probably as freaked out about it as Reese was. They had to buckle her into the stretcher and put her on the ambulance. I ran to our car and grabbed a few things – our Magna Doodle that just happened to be in our car and her car seat since we'd have to get back to our car somehow later - and I hopped in the ambulance with her. We talked about how we were going to the doctor and he was going to give her a check up and make sure she was ok. She cried, thinking she would get another shot and I assured her she wouldn't. They gave her two little stuffed animal bears that she was very scared of and wouldn't touch (until we got home and now she plays with them and always pretends like they are sick. I heard her say the other day “You eat a m&m and your back hurts? It’s ok. The doctor will make you better!” bless her little heart.) I guess from all that doctor talk Reese decided she wanted to watch Doc McStuffins on Disney, so I let her watch it on my phone while we drove. I later found out there was a hospital right by the grocery store that we could have gone to but I made them take us 20 minutes away to the downtown hospital where Mark was, just in case he might get out of surgery. And they also have the children's hospital/ER there, downtown, so I thought it would be better.
We checked into the ER. about a billion nurses and doctors came in and out getting us all situated. Reese was sooooooo brave, letting them check her a million times. They said she looked ok, but they wanted to monitor her for a few hours just to make sure there wasn’t a second reaction from the Epipen or after it wore off. Then the dr (and resident) left and we didn’t see them again for about 3 hrs. And we were stuck with this old, weird, male nurse who sure didn't seem like he knew what he was doing but I guess he did. He did turn on PBS for Reesieboo and she watched Clifford for about 5 minutes. Then she played with her Magnadoodle for a while. Then she just got soooooo tired and couldn't even keep her eyes open.
They said it would be good for her to take a nap and she slept for about two hours while I just sat there. Alone. In the dark. In the silence. Crying. Praying. No one to call. I've truly never felt so alone, (please don't feel sorry for me... I'm just telling you these details so you can see how incredible it is what happened next.) I was praying and crying and asking Jesus to be my friend since I don't have many other ones here. I was trying to process all that just happened and how crazy it was and just how much I love my little Reese and can hardly imagine what could have happened. I was praying for other specific things that I wished I had here in Des Moines - a friend for me that lived close whose husband was in residency so we could relate, (I miss you, Kara!) I was praying for wherever we live in the future and that we would be closer to our families. I was praying that God would just really know these desires of my heart and meet my needs, even the needs I didn't realize that I had. I was crying, just asking God to send me a friend to go through life with and crying because I miss all my other friends sooo much and I just felt sooooo far away from everything familiar, (really, I feel like this every day but in that moment it was just so, so, so, much more evident.) Then, out of nowhere, a nurse walked in the room and said, “Ma'am, someone is here with your groceries….” God sent me a rainbow.
Miracle #3 - What in the world?!!!
I thought she must have been talking to someone else or had gotten me confused with someone else or was playing a joke on me or something. I followed her out to the lobby so confused and she opened the door and there stood this sweet looking girl about my age with three bags of my groceries (one was even a cooler bag that she must have bought.) She had two little boys- a baby and probably a three-year-old. And I just started bawling. I mean, what!?!! Wow. She hugged me and said with a huge smile, "I saw the whole thing happening at the grocery store and I've had sick kids too and I just really felt like I wanted to do this for you. SO... here are your groceries." And she handed them to me. I was shocked and in awe. I just couldn't even believe it. I still can't believe it. Who would do that?? The nurse said she had driven to two hospitals looking for us. She paid for my groceries!! She parked and carried three bags and her two kids (one was a baby in a carseat) into the hospital looking for me... a stranger she had never met. What in the world?? She said she had even replaced all my milk and cheese and yogurt so they would be fresh. Are you kidding me?? I think she said her name was Sara and I think she said she works at the hospital. I'm pretty convinced though that she was an angel. I mean, what a miracle. And not that the groceries were even that important... it was just the whole act of doing something so incredibly selfless for someone you don't even know. Something sooo inconvenient for her. Something not in their “grocery budget” for that month. But it meant more to me than ANYTHING!! I pray she has hundreds of jewels in her crown in heaven because of what she did. I pray that her boys will grow up and be as kind and generous to others as she was to me.
I pray that I would be willing to help others like this gal did for me. Honestly one of my first thoughts was, “would I have helped in this way if I was the one watching?? I would hope so but I'm sure I could think of a million excuses not to: “Reese is tired. We haven't eaten lunch. I don't know where to find her. I don't know her name. It's kind of a lot of groceries.” I mean are you kidding!!!! I wish I could track her down somehow but then I also feel like maybe God just put her there - as an angel- in that moment and doesn't want me to track her down or feel like I owe her anything because I don't. It was her free gift to me. Just like Jesus is our free gift from God. There is nothing we do or can do to deserve what HE did for us. We just have to accept it. And accepting things freely is sort of hard, y’all.
So, I challenge you (and myself) to keep our eyes open to ways God wants to use you in someone else’s life, even if it seems inconvenient. Think about what it can teach your heart or your kids’ hearts when they see you doing it and really think about how much it could touch the other people.
Ok, back to the hospital… I said thank you about a billion times through all my tears and she was gone. I walked alone again through the hallway back to my sleeping baby. Crying and crying. Tears because I was overwhelmed by the kindness. Overwhelmed by what God does. Overwhelmed by what I just watched Reese go through. Overwhelmed that my husband couldn't be there. But this time as I walked by myself, I realized I wasn't alone. Jesus was there. He is always there! I sat down, and truly I felt Jesus by my side. I closed my eyes and immediately saw the most beautiful rainbow. I knew God had sent her (the woman with my groceries) as my rainbow and as His promise to me that he's taking care of us. He has friends for us here. Maybe we don't know them yet but I need to be patient and trust Him and trust His timing.
"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord!!" Jeremiah 29:11. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”
We know so clearly that Des Moines is where we are supposed to be for these next five years and Mark is so grateful and humbled to be a part of this awesome surgical program... so we know that He had planned for us to be here and He will provide for all of our needs while we're here.
And sister, Our mighty God knows YOUR needs too. Every one of them. Big or small. He’s got you. And HE knows the plans for you! Believe it and walk in that truth today!