On Monday morning, the diagnosis was leptospyrosis, a bacterial infection that is acquired from flood waters where rats or other animals have peed in.
His vital signs were not good. After a frantic phone call from his older brother, one of our long time boys, I made the decision to transport him to a private hospital just near us. As soon as I could, I ran to the emergency room and found him alone with nurses and doctors. He was hooked up to all kinds of wires, intravenous fluids, and other medicines. He was already in critical condition. His kidneys had shut down. Dialysis would need to be done immediately, but his blood pressure was only 70 over 40.
I held his hand in the emergency room. I can’t count the hours I stood beside his bed and held his hand, wiping his forehead. His head hurt, he said. I made a decision then, to trust in God, to do everything possible. To fight for his life.
In my world, death is common. I am familiar with the valley, though it is cold every time.
This time, I felt to fight. I was not to be in the ICU but the doctors sort of danced around me as I talked to Nathanael into the night. I explained every procedure. I told him the prognosis and the next step. I prayed. He smiled, he laughed. He even cried. We talked about his life, his plans, his baby son, his desire for God to use his life. The night hours turned somehow into the morning and we continued with every treatment possible to make his kidneys work. There were signs that things were not working as they should, but I ignored them and stood firm. I told stories, and rubbed his feet. I helped him breathe as though in labor, teaching him to control his oxygen levels by watching the monitor. It gave us a few hours of controlled peace. Then by Wednesday morning, he was struggling so hard. Everything hurt. He hadn’t slept in 4 days. His eyes and skin were so yellow. I fought for the best surgeon, the best specialist. I did everything right, I think. And I stood by his side.
On Wednesday evening, through the final dialysis, I held his hand. When his oxygen levels went too low and I knew we were losing him, I kept up my faith. As he slipped in and out of consciousness, he said, “Ate Cher, if I fall asleep, please do not leave me.” I promised. He woke up again and told me again not to leave. I promised again. A knowing glance from the doctor. I nodded. I knew what was next.
I stood beside Nathanel’s bed holding his hand through every procedure though I felt I could not stand. Evan came around 7 pm. The infectious disease specialist explained to him in hushed tones that there was nothing more to do. Nathanael was in pulmonary failure. It would just be a matter of time. Evan held Nathanael’s hand for a few minutes. Then motioned for mine again. It was all I could do to look him in the eyes. The doctors eyes were moist, and she wiped a silent tear. My own tears fell freely and softly. Nathanael somehow fell asleep and the straight line of his heart beat echoed in the quiet ICU.
The intense suffering for Nathanael was over.
I crouched somehow, on the floor outside the ICU and wept.
I continue to grieve this precious young man who I know is now in the presence of Jesus. I grieve for Ezekiel, his older brother. I grieve for his 3 month old son, his young wife, his mother, his siblings. I imagine him with his father, his brother, and his grandmother, walking the streets of gold. I know he is well and whole.
But my tears seem to have no end. My heart seems unable to heal. I do not understand why I was allowed to hold his hand to the last breath or why God would allow me to be there. I do not usually cry but for Nathanael, I am somehow unashamed. My tears flow on and off throughout the day.
Mark Schultz sings a song:
Even though I’m walking through the valley of the shadow
I will hold on to the hand of Him whose love will comfort me
And when all hope is gone and I am wounded in the battle
He is all the strength that I will every need
He will carry me.
God was with us in the flood, in the clean up, and in this new aftermath.
He is faithful though His ways we do not always understand.