Spinal Taps, Surgeries, and the Father’s Faithfulness {where I’ve been for the last week}

Dear friends,

I wanted to write tonight to let you know where I’ve been, and this is what came out.  It is fairly raw, mostly unedited, and spilled somewhat haphazardly out of my tired mind and heart, and my out-of-practice fingers.  Thanks for grace.

isaac hospital bed

It’s Tuesday, February 11th, and it starts out like any other day — with one exception: Isaac is sick.

And over the course of twelve hours, we progress from thinking he has a cold, to thinking (and our doctor agreeing) he may have meningitis.

So Stan stays home with our sleeping Maia, while I load one crying boy into our minivan, trying not to slip on the ice that covers our driveway, and off we head to Children’s Mercy Hospital.  Thankfully, it’s only 10 minutes from our house.


Rewinding a bit:

Sometime in early January, I’m driving down the road and I must pray a lot while I drive, because it seems driving is what I’m most often doing when Jesus unearths something huge and terrifying in my heart.  With two perfectly healthy kiddos in the back seat of my minivan, I find myself silently confessing the sense of terror and trauma that pierces my heart when I imagine either of my children ever having major medical issues that would put them in the hospital. The thought of my kids having to undergo any major medical intervention, the trauma it would cause their bodies, their hearts — it makes me sick to my stomach.

Now, Jesus is faithful and I know this.  He’s sustained my heart through a LOT of trauma and loss in the past.  But this thing of my kids being so sick or hurt that they were subjected to hospital life for a period of time?  I suddenly found myself begging Jesus to never let that happen to our family.

The thought occurs to me: “I wonder if, since I’m afraid of this, the Lord will allow it to happen.”  Not because He’s cruel – it’s not that at all.  But because He is so about proving His faithfulness to sustain me through the things I dread.


This isn’t our first trip to the ER with our boy.  When Isaac was younger we ended up here a couple of times, once with a horrible ear infection and once with a stomach bug that wouldn’t let up.

This time though?  Things feel different.

We arrive at 7:30pm, and I sense an urgency in the nurses’ quiet but hurried communication with one another about Isaac’s condition.  They quickly move us through triage and into the Emergency Department.  The ER doc sees us soon afterward.

Too soon.

“Hey Isaac, can you look at your mommy over there? {Hey Mom, move over to this side now.}  Okay, can you look at her over here?”

He won’t, or can’t, turn his head.

More whispers.  The doc gives me his immediate thoughts.  About running tests.  Blood work.  Nasal swab.  He needs an IV.  A spinal tap.

Oh Jesus, no…

And if the spinal tap doesn’t show meningitis, he’ll need a CT scan and we’ll have to sedate him —

My brain’s overwhelmed with information, and I’m scared.  Straight up scared.

By this time it’s after 10 pm.  They get my permission to sedate him for the lumbar puncture. (Medical terminology for spinal tap, I guess? Is this supposed to make me feel better about it?  Because it’s not working.)  I’m thankful that he won’t be awake for the procedure.

I stand by him, hold his hand until the meds have worked their way through his IV and into his system.  He’s sedated, so I step out of the room, entrusting Him to Jesus and the ER docs.

I call Stan.  Confess my fear.  We pray together and rising up inside me to match the intensity of my terror, I find this tangible sense of Him.  The nearness of the God whose grace is sufficient for this moment.  And will be for the next one.  And the next.

isaac hospital bed bear


Time creeps by.


2 AM.

Spinal tap is negative for meningitis.  They sedate him again, run the CT scan.  And finally, there are answers.  Abscesses.  Deep neck abscesses, an infection behind his tonsils.  His spinal cord is inflamed, causing the limited neck movement.  There’s talk of taking him into the OR.

They call the operating crew in early for our boy, and surgery commences at 6 the next morning.  I’m thankful to be allowed to stay with him until he’s under anesthesia.  Then I wander the halls of the hospital till a kind nurse takes me under her wing and shows me to the cafeteria.  I’ve had 20 minutes of sort-of sleep.  My options?  Either cry my eyes out, or eat an omelette.  I choose the latter.

Surgery initially seems to go well.  Relieved doesn’t come close to describing my feelings about having my boy back in my arms afterward.


The week wears on.  They have to re-start Isaac’s IV because the first one quit working, and starting an IV in a 3-year-old is nothing short of awful.

We endure another CT scan, followed by yet another surgery, two and a half days after the first.  The first surgery was unsuccessful and the infection had continued to worsen.  I watch my li’l guy in perpetual pain and discomfort, sedated, put under for numerous procedures.

He is scared.  And angry.  Angry at the doctors who keep sticking their tongue depressors in his mouth.  Angry at the nurses who keep checking his vitals.  Angry because he wants OUT of the hospital, wants to go home, wants to be with Daddy.


They were heart-wrenching, those 5 days.  But I kept moving.  Caring for him, advocating for him.  Putting one foot in front of the other.   Leaning into Jesus and into my husband, who came morning and evening most days to sit with us, to let me grab a shower and a bite to eat.

Our time in the hospital was hard and exhausting, and I’m still not recovered physically or emotionally —  I’m not gonna lie.

But as I sit here writing tonight, remembering our 12 hours in the ER that began exactly one week ago, followed by days and days of hospital life, I remember grace, grace, grace.  Woven so tenderly and tangibly throughout those hospital days.

I remember texted Bible verses from my husband that reoriented my heart to the truth in critical moments.

I remember 70, 80, 100+ Facebook comments from precious friends who had our backs in prayer.  I remember visits and meals and being loved so well by the Body of Christ that it just about totally undid me.

And I remember how my bond with my son was deepened.

I remember lying in the hospital bed with Isaac, who was up way too late, unable {or unwilling} to sleep.  How he let me cuddle him, how I sang him the songs my mom sang to me when I was a little girl and the songs I sang to him when he was a baby.  How he let me stroke his hair and hold him tight.

How I placed my hand over his little heart and I would have given absolutely anything in the world right then to make him feel how for him and how with him I was.  Would have pressed my heart right into his, to stabilize and cover and secure him in my love.  How I longed to love him fierce enough and raw enough to make all his fear and trauma and pain flee.

And I remember the Father’s whispers to my heart in the wee morning hours: “Feel this, Dana?  the way you love your son?   T h i s.  i s.  h o w.  I.  l o v e.  y o u.  This fierce. This gaping and bleeding. This raw.  And?  This is how I love this boy, right here.  This precious one I’ve entrusted to you.  And I am proving myself worthy of your trust here in this place.  Right now.”

I remember that in every moment I dreaded, He was present.  In everything I thought I’d never be able to handle, He was constant.  In every medical procedure I just knew I wouldn’t have grace to watch my child endure?  His grace was tangible.  Calming.  Peace-bearing.  Sustaining.


No, so much more than.

isaac mommy hospital bracelets


We’re home now, and our boy is nearly himself again.  Wild and rowdy, spunky and fun.  A bit of a cough left over, but he’s well on his way to being healthy.  Our church family is bringing us meals and we are so blessed and well taken care of.

And as for me?  I’m pondering these things in my heart.  Cherishing the kindness of my God who won’t allow me to escape this absolute knowing of His faithfulness, even when I beg to.

What fierce love.  What relentless pursuit.  What tender undoing of my soul.

Through it all, after all, and whatever comes — He is enough.  And He is good.


Linking up with Jennifer Dukes Lee for #TellHisStory.


This entry was posted in Attending to His Presence, Encountering God in the Messy, Family Moments, Grief and Loss, misc. walking with Jesus, Parenting, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

43 Responses to Spinal Taps, Surgeries, and the Father’s Faithfulness {where I’ve been for the last week}

  1. marvia says:

    Yes! His faithfulness is true and holds truth even in the shadowy dark of the valley of death. He is still faithful. Thank you for reminding of the fierce, ardent love of God. Powerful words. He makes beautiful out of the dust. 😉

  2. Adela says:

    This is beautiful, Dana. You’ve been on my mind. I’ve been through the hospital/surgery thing with my precious girl, and I know it is so draining. Be patient with yourself if it takes your momma heart some time to recover. And thank you for the reminder of His fierce love and unrelenting faithfulness.

    • danalynnb says:

      Adela, your presence here blesses my heart… as does your permission to go easy on myself. I think I kind of needed to hear that. Love to you, sis.

  3. Rick White says:

    Thanks for sharing, Dana. So happy he is on the mend. God’s grace really is amazing. God bless you all.

  4. Jolene says:

    Wow! Thank you Dana for sharing the lessons that you have learned in the last week. I love reading your words. The way that you put heart to paper. I am so glad that Issac is feeling better. I hope you are able to get some much needed rest.
    Jolene recently posted…1,000 giftsMy Profile

    • danalynnb says:

      Jolene, you encourage my heart. Thank you for seeing me, for receiving from Jesus via my small words. Blessed by you, lady.

  5. Leah says:

    Relived some of my own hospital days with this post. As you continue to look back, new things will dawn on you more and more as time goes by- tangible things that you didn’t see at the time that displayed God’s grace and care for you personally. This is what makes the hard times the most precious! ((hug)) So glad Isaac is better!!
    Leah recently posted…TenThings Every Single Woman in Ministry Wants You to Know About HerMy Profile

    • danalynnb says:

      I love that, Leah – how the further out you get from a circumstance like this, the more you look back and can see His kindness woven through all of it. Love you my friend!

  6. I’m tears… this is such a beautiful portrait of our Father’s heart, and also of our Mother’s heart in God. To see your faith and trust grow, to hear of the Body’s loving care for you, and to know Isaac is well and good…. wow – praise God!
    Susan Deborah Schiller recently posted…Even A Seemingly Tiny Story Can Travel Great DistancesMy Profile

    • danalynnb says:

      Hey Susan, thank you so much for your kind words here, for allowing your heart to be moved. Your words here kind of undo me. Really thankful for your heart. <3

  7. ~Karrilee~ says:

    So – I am pretty much in love with you… in the most non-creepy way… or at least I know for sure that I am in love with the same Over the Top amazing God who loves us deepest and best and pours out through our Mama hearts when they feel like they are broken and bleeding. Praising Him with you, sweet friend! Praying Him to you… as you and your family FULLY recover!
    ~Karrilee~ recently posted…What Brings You Joy?My Profile

  8. Amy P Boyd says:

    So glad that Isaac is feeling better and that you can see the ‘silver lining in the storm cloud’. I believe it is in our darkest moments and deepest fears that He shows us just how faithful He is. Learning to trust Him more comes when we have to trust Him more. Thanks for strengthening my faith with your story. I continue to pray for Isaac’s recovery as well as your’s
    Amy P Boyd recently posted…Not a Pinterest FanMy Profile

    • danalynnb says:

      Amy, YES, there’s never a cloud without a silver lining when we meet Him in the midst of pain. TRUTH – I have never experienced Him more intimately than in my most difficult seasons. So thankful for how He works all things together for our good – how He draws us deeper into trust through the gut-wrenching stuff. Thank you for how you know Him, how you love Him. You encourage me, friend. xo

  9. Rebekah says:

    Dana, I’ve just got tears reading this – what was I thinking reading this at work? :) But you’ve captured your experience – the struggle, the fear, the exhaustion, the frustration, the grace. Oh, the grace – all so well. Your acknowledgement of how our God moves to show us time and again His faithfulness is so exquisite. Praying that Isaac’s recovery continues and that you and your family have the much needed rest you need. Bless your heart, friend.
    Rebekah recently posted…An Exercise in Memoir: To A Singular BeatMy Profile

    • danalynnb says:

      Oh Rebekah darlin’ — I’m so sorry I made you cry at work! Lol. I’m so thankful Jesus used my experience to touch your heart. So appreciate your prayers, friend. xo

  10. Oh honey, I relate to this fear. And this love. And this goodness of God. And I am so sorry for all you’ve been through, but God….This is such a beautiful offering of trust. I love you, friend, and am so glad you and your Issac boy are home again. Praise God! xoxo
    Ashley Larkin @ Draw Near recently posted…What blogging has taught me about opening the doorMy Profile

    • danalynnb says:

      Love you too, my dear friend. Thank you for your presence, your encouragement, for how you bless and inspire my heart. <3

  11. Sarah says:

    Oh Dana, He is so very faithful. Thank you for being open to everything that He has for you (the easy and the oh-so-difficult), and for sharing that with us, as well. Love to you, dear one, and so glad that your son is safe and sound.
    Sarah recently posted…continuing to hope…My Profile

  12. Lori Harris says:

    You’re a brave one Dana. So grateful that you experienced the peace of God in the midst of your fears and that you felt carried by Him.
    He is good and He is mighty to save!
    Love to you~
    Lori Harris recently posted…On Being Jacked and All the Things I’m NotMy Profile

    • danalynnb says:

      Lori, your prayers and texts while we were in the hospital encouraged my heart more than I can say. I mean, SO much. To quote a wise friend of mine — “You fill my cup.” THANKFUL for you.

  13. Anthony Mahoney says:

    This is beautiful! ! It brought me to tears. I remember when Sannay was severely burned and in the burn unit for so long. It was his love that pulled me and my little bugga-bugga through all of it. Thanks for sharing your heart with us. Prayers to y’all. Miss you guys.

    • danalynnb says:

      Anthony, I remember when Sannay was in the hospital too after that burn. I’m so thankful you can look back on that and see how His love carried y’all through. Hugs from the Butlers. :)

  14. Thanks for sharing the lesson of God’s fierce love shown in the story of your little boy. Glad your son is feeling better now.
    Constance Ann Morrison recently posted…Hearts and ScarsMy Profile

  15. Mary says:

    This brings tears to my eyes remembering a time with my own son. God’s grace is sufficient and what a wonderful gift. I came over from Jennifer’s place…so glad I did. Praying for continued recovery.
    Mary recently posted…Where is my attention?My Profile

    • danalynnb says:

      Hi there Mary, so glad you stopped over from Jennifer’s. Yes – His grace is SO sufficient – it just undoes me. Blessed by your prayers for my boy. Thanks so much for your kindness here.

  16. Becky Daye says:

    Sweet Dana! Thank you for sharing this heart wrenching, beautiful tribute to the greatness of God in the midst of the extremely difficult. The way you honor Jesus through your words is nothing less than gorgeous. So blessed to know you, to have the privilege of praying for your sweet family and especially your dear Isaac this past week, and to see God continue to work in your heart as only He can.
    My Daddy preached a sermon one time on Job 3:25, “For the very thing I dreaded has happened to me, and what I feared has come” (he spoke in regards to having open heart surgery- the thing he dreaded most in life). And I will never forget how he shared that it was God’s grace allowing Him to face that fear, because he learned through it that there really is nothing to fear when we are depending on God- that His faithfulness is so present in those moments of our deepest fear.
    I see these thoughts echoed so beautifully in your story. And oh, the goodness of God- allowing you to walk an incredibly tough road but in the process strengthening your faith and your dependence on Him. Just beautiful!!!
    So much love to you and yours!
    Becky Daye recently posted…Why Community?My Profile

    • danalynnb says:

      Wow Becky, your dad’s sermon rings true, resonates so deep in my heart. He is so kind to us when we face what we fear, the way He invites us to encounter Him in it and removes the trauma from our hearts. Your dad was a wise man. And his daughter is a blessing. :) xo

  17. Brad Strait says:

    “Find me in the silence.”
    And we still do find Him. Rejoicing.

    • danalynnb says:

      Brad I’m so blessed to find your words here. And so THANKFUL you still find Him in silence. Thanks for your encouragement. Please give my love to your family.

  18. Such a beautiful post Dana! Sending more prayers for peace and love for you and your family! Have a great rest of the week!
    Stacey Gannett (This Momma’s Ramblings) recently posted…#2014BloggerChallenge 4 – High End vs. High StreetMy Profile

  19. It has to be the most terrifying thing to be in the hospital with your children. I remember the days well when my boy was 10 months old and had surgery. So grateful for a healthy outcome for Isaac, a wonderful medical team to care for him, and the friends and family you guys have surrounding you. Thank you, Jesus, for healing Isaac and for holding Dana and Stan in your hands. Much love, friend!
    Holly Barrett recently posted…A constant joyMy Profile

    • danalynnb says:

      Oh goodness, 10 months old Holly? Wow. How difficult that must have been. Really appreciate your love and prayers, my friend.

  20. Well, I have chills now. Seeing Jesus despite fear is a beautiful thing. And the way you shared it with us is also beautiful. Much love to you and your family, Dana!
    Kristin Taylor recently posted…Joy comes as Family Game NightsMy Profile

    • danalynnb says:

      Kristin, I love that you had chills. Holy Spirit goose bumps. :) I love how Jesus invites us to see Him in the midst of our raw emotions – of our humanity. Really thankful for that. And for your friendship. xo

  21. Anita Ojeda says:

    I’d type a long response, but my vision is blurred. Suffice it to say, consider yourself hugged from afar. Praise God for his faithfulness in helping you through each excruciating moment, and that your son is doing better.
    Anita Ojeda recently posted…There’s Nothing Small About My NeighborMy Profile

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