In apparent perfect health, our vibrant tomboy toppled over without warning. Eyes rolled back, semi-conscious, we were unable to reach her with our voice. It was if she'd strayed so far within herself that she was too distant to hear.
It was December 5, 1986, the first day of a one-week vacation from my job. In the midst of purchasing our treetop home, my chief concerns were down payments, credit reports and job security. Nothing was more important than closing that deal.
Until I saw Jessica.
It's amazing how fast we can forget about house deals.
A medical novice, reactions came by instinct. Get her to the hospital FAST!
Observation #1: Little girls who can't wrap their arms around your neck are twice as heavy as those who can.
Observation #2: Adrenaline makes up the difference.
By the time I got her to the car, it was obvious we were losing her. We retreated to the house and called emergency.
Observation #3: Helplessness is perhaps the worst feeling of all.
After an ambulance ride to the hospital, hours of tests and questions ( Did she fall? Did she eat something poisonous? Any prior symptoms? No. No. No.), there was still no improvement. In fact, her lungs had begun bleeding, forcing the need for a respirator to be put down her throat.
The family doctor was called. Specialists were called. A pastor-friend was called. Prayer chains were notified.
Barely surviving the night, Jessica was rushed onto a helicopter the next morning for a trip to a better-equipped, Tampa Hospital.
She continued to worsen. Family members flew in. The ICU waiting room became the family gathering spot.
Throughout the day, the respirator was at full strength, yet with the bleeding in her lungs, enough oxygen wasn't getting through. We spent hours with eyes fixed on her oxygen-blood-level dial. Since the source of the bleeding wasn't known, or its cause, doctors had hoped that the respirator's air pressure would've stopped the bleeding.
At 10 p.m. the doctors called us into a private meeting.
"The bleeding hasn't stopped. We don't know if it's from one location or a thousand small ones. Her oxygen level continues to fall. If we don't stop it, she'll die."
They described their need to pull the respirator tube to find the source of the bleeding. But they were concerned that the tube was partially blocking the source. There was a chance that by removing it, she would die. They looked us straight in the eye. "We need your approval to pull the tube and make the search."
Observation #4: Helplessness IS the worst feeling of all.
Margie & I gave approval and began walking the hospital halls. For some reason, for the first time in two days, thoughts of the job and house deal popped into my mind. I laughed. I really laughed. In the grand scheme of things, it was all so...insignificant! How could I have ever been so consumed by things so trivial?
Spent, exhausted and overwhelmed, we did the only thing with Jessica's situation that we could - turned it over to God. It's your choice, we said. If she stays with us, hallelujah. But if you need to bring her home, she'll be in a far better place than we can provide. We really can't lose with either decision.
And then we let her go.
It hit us both at the same time. Immediate peace. Instant relief. It was if the air around us had just turned fresh and cool. After two days of agonizing, our load was lifted. We returned smiling, surprising our family in the waiting room.
Ten minutes later, the doctors called us back in.
"We never performed the procedure," they said smiling. "We don't know what happened, but before we could start, the bleeding stopped on its own. Jessica's oxygen level has jumped up. She's improving. We can't explain it. Call it luck, call it good timing or call it a miracle."
Seventeen days later, after being sent back to Fort Myers, she was discharged -- just 15 minutes before our Christmas Eve church service. When we held her aloft, still in her hospital pajamas, the teary-eyed congregation sent a standing ovation that went straight to heaven.
The cause of Jessica's problem was never discovered and she's been healthy ever since. But the repercussions of that brush with death, and up-close look at Jessica's miracle, forever changed our perspective.
After years of reflection, the question has changed. It is no longer what caused that one little life to be saved, but has become instead, what causes any of us to remain alive in the first place?
What feeble little concerns of man can ever overshadow that?
Mike Johnson is an energetic writer & entrepreneur. Learn more about Mike's offerings at www.MikeJohnson.biz