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“Jackson, are you ok?” I asked. It was a Sunday morning. We were getting ready for church, but he didn’t look good. “Yes,” he replied, “I’m just tired. I didn’t sleep well.” Hmm, both of my boys are good sleepers, so if he didn’t sleep well, something was wrong. “Were you too hot or too cold?” I inquired. “No, I just kept waking up and couldn’t get comfortable,” he replied. A closer look at his eyes revealed that he wasn’t well. He didn’t have a fever, but it seemed best to stay home from church. Shortly after lunch, Jackson became very tired and started running a low-grade fever. That was the first of many fevers, as Jackson would be sick for the next five weeks with an illness that doctors would struggle to diagnose.
It was the middle of the summer before Jackson’s 8th grade year. He had been attending summer football conditioning. We were amazed at how fit he was becoming, impressed with muscles growing on his young teen body. I watched him during workouts. He was doing great! In fact, Jackson was in excellent shape. Surely he just had a summer “bug” of some kind. I would have to keep him home from football the next day since he had a fever, but expected him to be fine with a day of rest. By Wed he was still running fevers in the afternoon, and had mentioned his knee hurt – probably a strain from football, so we went to see his pediatrician. By the end of that visit, her casual, easy-going tone turned one of concern. Instead of a prescription for an antibiotic, she handed me information for lab work she wanted to have done for Jackson. Something was wrong. And, so, we prayed…
I call on you, O God, for you will answer me; give ear to me and hear my prayer. – Psalm 17:6
The first round of blood tests ruled out cancer, leukemia and rheumatoid arthritis (praise for that!), but gave no clue as to what was wrong. By the time we returned to the pediatrician for a follow-up visit, he had lost five pounds and was noticeably weaker as symptoms worsened each day. There were more tests in the next two weeks, but no answers. By the end of three weeks, Jackson had lost 15 pounds. Fevers were still happening every afternoon, preceded by terrible chills. Jackson was so weak that he could no longer go up and down the stairs to his room, and sometimes could not finish eating his food because it tired him to eat. Jackson was now very sick. Doctors could not find a diagnosis. How much longer would this illness last, and how much worse would it get? We were scared. And, so, we prayed…
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation (affliction), be constant in prayer.” Romans 12:12 (ESV)
By this time, family, friends and people from our school were learning of Jackson’s illness. They sent emails and cards to express their care and concern, shared encouragements, and asked to receive updates so they could pray for Jackson. What a comfort that was! One night, Jackson even received a surprise delivery of hot Krispy Kreme donuts from one of his friends. That sweet gesture was an encouragement for all of us.
Prayers and encouragements were reassuring, especially when my husband and I would look at Jackson’s once fit body and be shocked by how quickly it was wasting away. The color of his skin looked bad, too. How could someone so fit and athletic become so sick and weak in just a few weeks?! Overwhelmed by what was happening, sometimes all I could pray was, “God, please help him.” However, I knew other people were also praying for Jackson. Where our prayers left off, their prayers picked up. I started claiming Psalm 103, especially verses 1-5, and shared the passage with others. We claimed the Bible’s promise that God is a God of benefits Who heals our diseases, and found hope that Jackson’s youth would be “renewed like the eagle’s.” We believed in the healing and restorative power of God. And, so, we prayed…
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. – James 5:16
It was the fourth week of the illness. Jackson had undergone extensive tests and multiple rounds of lab work. Specialists at the Children’s Hospital had done all they could. By this time, the fevers were starting to subside and Jackson was starting to feel a little better. It was determined that he had a “fever of unknown origin.” Doctors said we would likely never know the cause of his illness. Hopefully it would not return. As sick as Jackson was, this was unsettling and troubling. Fortunately, his pediatrician and one of the specialists weren’t satisfied with that diagnosis. The specialist said there was one test that hadn’t been done, a bone scan. He was hopeful the bone scan would yield a diagnosis. The bone scan did reveal nine areas of “hot spots” in Jackson’s bones where inflammation was present, but there was no sign of infection to explain the inflammation. This was not what the doctor was expecting. We were thankful that we finally had evidence of underlying symptoms, but doctors were still baffled as to the cause of the illness. We still needed answers. And, so, we prayed…
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it, with thanksgiving. – Colossians 4:2
Jackson’s case was presented to a team of specialists who confer on difficult cases. Our greatest hope for a diagnosis was with them. We rallied our praying friends, asking them to pray for God to lead those doctors in knowledge and wisdom to figure out what was wrong. Jackson had been sick for five weeks now. He was missing the start of the school year, and longing to return to football. He was tired of being sick, and tired of living on the couch. He wanted to be healthy and well again, and we wanted that for him! Everything seemed to hinge on the outcome of the doctors’ findings. And, so, we prayed…
Two days later, our pediatrician called with the results. Because the team of specialists had not been able to make a diagnosis with the case information given at their meeting, they each went home to research further and make a determination on their own, individually. After contacting each physician, our pediatrician said they had unanimously made the SAME diagnosis of a rare auto-inflammation/auto-immune disease that affects the bones, Chronic Recurrent Multi-focal Osteomyelitis (CRMO). She explained that for an unknown reason, inflammation had formed in Jackson’s bones (remember his initial knee pain?), and the inflammation caused the body to think there was illness, so the body’s immune system triggered an epic attack against infection that was not there, resulting in the fevers, weakness, and weight loss. As soon as we could rid the body of inflammation, the symptoms would go away. We finally had a diagnosis, and would be able to manage the illness! Hooray and praise the Lord! God heard our prayers and led the specialists, individually, to a unanimous diagnosis! We were humbled, grateful, thankful, and overjoyed. And, so, we prayed…
I will praise you forever for what you have done; in your name I will hope, for your name is good. I will praise you in the presence of your saints. – Psalm 52:9
In follow-up: It has been a year since Jackson was diagnosed with CRMO. He still has fatigue and requires more sleep than usual, but otherwise is doing well. We are very thankful that we have been able to manage CRMO on our own (many patients rely on treatment from injections). Jackson has had set-backs from the illness, but no full flare-ups. He was able to return to sports, and he was able to start school with everyone else this year! Praise for all those things! I truly believe Jackson is doing as well as he is because of the many prayers that covered him while he was sick, and the prayers that continued this past year during his recovery. We will always be grateful for each person who prayed and for every prayer said on his behalf.
Sometimes it seems like all we can do is pray. That’s ok because the BEST thing we can do is pray!
Tonight is the 35th class reunion for our high school graduating class. (Yikes! Am I really that old?!) I wish I could be there. I would LOVE to see friends I grew up with and reunite with those who have become better friends in recent years through our connections in social media. Remembering past times, and seeing where we are now, I am awed by the ties of friendship and experiences that bind us together, bringing some of us closer now than we were in high school.
The Bible says: Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands cannot quickly be broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:12 NIV)
Life has proven this to be true. That’s why need each other, and why family and friendships are so important.
Going back the verse above, think about ways we can use a cord or rope. A rope can be used to tie a swing to the high branch of a tree to bring laughter to children of all ages. Ropes tie boats to docks to keep them from drifting away. Climbers use ropes to tether themselves to each other, and also to attach themselves to secure objects for safety. Preschool teachers use long ropes for their students to hold onto when they leave their classrooms to keep all the little ones together and going the right direction. Ropes can be used to make nets that can catch fish, and are used in sports to deflect balls to make games challenging, and also to keep balls from going out of bounds.
Family relationships and friendships serve the same purposes – provide laughter and joy, keep others from drifting away, getting lost, or falling down the proverbial slippery slopes of life, and add challenge to keep things fun. Friends of faith can help keep us anchored in truth and righteousness, and also keep us from going out of bounds.
Standing alone, we can feel weak, discouraged, vulnerable, overwhelmed, isolated, and lonely. A friend or loved one can make us laugh, give encouragement, help, advise, listen, and support, being there to share the highs and lows of life. When three or more come together, the ties that bind are even stronger!
To my family and friends: Whether I’ve known you all my life, became acquainted with you online, or just met you recently in the grocery store, I appreciate you and your friendship! I appreciate having others who celebrate good times, understand the messy moments of life, give help and encouragement when times are tough, and I especially appreciate having loved ones and friends who share in faith and prayer. We might not always agree, but that’s ok! Sharing differences helps us grow in understanding of each other and the world around us.
So here’s to family, friendship, and the ties that bind us together. May those ties be forever strong!
Blessings to all. 🙂