It was just an ordinary day, at least it started out that way. My husband, Harold Littrell Jr., and I had taken our two sons, eight year old Harold III and five year old Brian, to my parents' house to spend the warm sunny day.
Harold and I sat on the front porch with his parents, drinking lemonade and watching the kids play in the front yard. Summer had just begun, and little Harold and Brian were having a great time playing tag outside.
I finished my tall glass of lemonade and was about to pour another when I saw that the pitcher was almost empty.
"Mom," I said, "where do you keep the lemonade mix?"
"Oh, I have a can of frozen concentrate in the freezer," she replied.
"All right, I'll go make some more," I said, standing up and carrying the pitcher into the house. As I stood at the sink, filling the pitcher up with water for the lemonade, I heard a loud wail. I shut off the faucet and dashed outside, knowing that something bad had happened. Sure enough, my youngest son, Brian, was sprawled out on his back on the cement sidewalk.
"Brian!" I cried, my heart leaping into my throat. I ran to him. Everyone else was already hovering over him. I lightly pushed my older son to the side so I could see what was going on. Harold carefully picked Brian up and carried him inside. I followed at his heels. He lay Brian down on the couch. He wasn't bleeding from anywhere, thank goodness.
"My head hurts, Daddy," Brian moaned through his tears.
I turned to my mother, who was standing behind me. "What happened?" I asked.
"He and Harry were running around, and he tripped and fell. He hit his head pretty hard on the ground, from what it looked like," she answered, worriedly. "He might have a concussion."
"Harold?" I said to my husband. "Mom says Bri might have a concussion."
Harold turned away from Brian towards my mother. "Do you think we should take him to the hospital?" he asked.
She nodded. "Better be safe than sorry," she replied.
"Listen, honey, I'll go start the car. Can you carry Brian out?" Harold asked me.
"Sure," I replied. He hurried outside, and I carefully scooped up Brian. It was easy, for he was small for five.
"Mom, Dad, will you guys watch Harry for us?" I asked quickly.
"Sure, sweetie," my father assure me. "You call when you hear something, okay?"
"I will," I promised and carried Brian out to the car. He was still crying. "I'd better get in the back with him, honey," I said to Harold. He nodded and helped me and Brian into the backseat. As he headed towards St. Joseph's Hospital, I cradled Brian in my arms. He was still whimpering. I could tell he was trying to be brave.
I kissed his forehead. "We're almost there, Babyduck," I told him, using my special nickname for him. He looked up at me with his innocent blue eyes and managed a tiny smile for me. I smiled back at him and ruffled his light brown curls.
We pulled into the parking lot of St. Joseph's a few minutes later. Harold turned off the car and took Brian out for me. He carried Brian inside, and I followed. We went into the ER entrance. Harold took Brian to sit down in the waiting room while I talked to the receptionist and filled out some forms.
Luckily, it was not very busy, so a nurse came out a few minutes later, pushing a wheelchair. Harold set Brian in the wheelchair, and the nurse pushed him into one of the exam rooms. She lifted Brian onto the bed. Then she handed me a small hospital gown. "You help him get changed into this, and a doctor will be in in a few minutes," she said.
I helped Brian into the gown, which was huge on him. A few minutes later, a doctor came into the room.
"Hello, I'm Dr. Henry Banks," he said, holding out his hand to Harold.
"Hi, I'm Harold Littrell, and this is my wife, Jackie," Harold said. We both shook Dr. Banks' hand.
"Now, what seems to be the trouble today?" he asked.
"I was running, and I fell down and bumped my head," Brian said.
"Oh, I'm sorry," Dr. Banks said sympathetically. "That must hurt." Brian nodded, tears still running from his baby blue eyes. I realized the kind, middle-aged doctor must have had a lot of experience with kids. That was good. I knew Brian was scared. "Well, Brian, I'm going to take you upstairs to run a few tests to see how badly you bumped your head, okay?"
Brian nodded nervously. I grabbed one of his little hands. It was cold and clammy.
"Dr. Banks, would it be okay if I came with him?" I asked. "He'll be afraid.”
Dr. Banks nodded. "We're going to run a CT scan on him to see if there is any head damage. Most likely, he just has a concussion. We just want to check things out, just to be sure. You may come upstairs with us and wait outside the room, but you can't be in the room with him when he is having the scan done."
I nodded. Dr. Banks helped Brian back into the wheelchair and headed for an elevator, Harold and I following behind.
An hour later, we were back in the exam room with Brian lying in the bed. He had gotten very tired and looked ready to fall asleep.
Suddenly, a nurse came in. "I just have to take his vitals," she said. "It's routine."
"Okay," I said. "Brian, sweetheart, she just wants to take your temperature and stuff, okay?" He nodded sleepily.
The nurse wrapped a blood pressure cuff around his arm and took his blood pressure. Then she took his temperature. She waited for a minute, then pulled the thermometer out of his mouth. As she looked at it, she frowned and glanced at his chart. "Has your son been sick?" she asked me.
"No, why?" I asked, confused. "We think he has a concussion. That's why he's here."
"Yes, that's what his chart says. But he's running a pretty high fever too," the nurse replied.
"A fever?!" I asked. "Is that common with a concussion?"
"No," she said. "He's probably just coming down with something. I'll go let Dr. Banks know. He might want to check it out." With that, she hurried out of the room.
"Brian, baby, do you feel alright?" I asked, putting my hand on his forehead. She was right, he was burning up! When did that happen? I wondered. He was fine this morning.
"Not really," Brian mumbled. His cheeks looked flushed.
A few minutes later, Dr. Banks came back. "The scan shows he has a concussion. But it is only minor, nothing to worry about. However, Shari told me he's running a pretty high fever all of a sudden."
"Yes, that's what she said. I don't know what's wrong with him. He seemed fine this morning," I said, concerned.
"Well, I'd better check him over, just to make sure it's nothing serious," Dr. Banks said. He sat down in a chair next to Brian's bed. "Can you sit up for me, buddy?" he asked Brian. Brian slowly sat up in bed. Dr. Banks put his stethoscope to his ears. He slid the other end down the front of Brian's gown and listened to his heart. He frowned as he listened. Then he listened from the back and then the front again.
"Do you know if Brian has a heart murmur?" he asked Harold softly, so Brian wouldn't hear.
Harold's eyes widened. "No," he said. "What's that? Is it something serious?"
"No, it's usually nothing too serious. It's just an atypical rhythm of the heart. Sometimes, it can be caused by an abnormality of the heart's structure though," the doctor explained.
"Are you saying that something's wrong with his heart?" I whispered, fearfully.
"Well, I'd like to run a few more tests just to make sure there's nothing seriously wrong. It could be nothing," Dr. Banks said. "I'm going to take him back upstairs for an EKG and a chest x-ray."
"Okay," I said uncertainly.
"I'll be right back. I'm going to go get a stretcher for him to ride on instead of that wheelchair. Poor little guy looks too tired to even hold his head up," Dr. Banks said. He pushed the wheelchair out and rolled in a stretcher. Then he lifted Brian out of bed and gently lay him on the stretcher. A nurse came in to help roll the stretcher, and we all took the elevator back upstairs for the tests.
Once again, Harold and I waited in a waiting room for Brian to get finished with the tests. I said nothing, just sat there stiffly. Harold patted my hand, but it did nothing to reassure me. I was worried.
We waited another half an hour with Brian back in his room after the tests. Then, a nurse came in.
"I need to draw some blood," she said. Brian's eyes widened when he saw her prepare the syringe.
"No shots," he moaned, his eyes beginning to tear up. I squeezed his hand tightly.
"It's okay, Babyduck," I soothed. "It's just a little prick and then it's all over." Brian squeezed his eyes shut and tried not to cry as the nurse took some blood from his arm. When it was over, I hugged him tightly. "There, honey, it's all over. You were such a brave boy." I could feel the heat radiating from his warm little body. I prayed that Dr. Banks would be back soon to tell us what was wrong with Brian.
We waited for two more hours with no word from Dr. Banks. Brian eventually fell asleep. Harold and I just sat back, watching him.
Finally, Dr. Banks came in the room. "Can I speak with you out in the waiting room, please?" he asked.
Harold and I stood up and followed him out into the nearly empty waiting room. The doctor sat us down in chairs. I felt ice cold inside. Somehow, I could sense that something was wrong.
Dr. Banks cleared his throat. "I'm afraid I don't have very good news for you," he started grimly. "First of all, Brian does have a heart murmur. We ran some scans of his heart to see what was causing the murmur, and we found that he has a tiny hole in his heart."
"What?!" I gasped, tears filling my eyes. I tried to blink them back and stay calm, but it was hard.
"Really, it's not as bad as it sounds," Dr. Banks assured us. "It's actually a quite common problem. It's congenital, meaning Brian was born with this defect. In most children, it eventually closes as they grow up." I sighed with relief. "However, that isn't the bad news," Dr. Banks continued. "It seems Brian has contracted a serious infection called Bacterial Endocarditis. It's what we call a staph infection."
"Oh, my God," I cried softly. "How did he get it?"
"It's an infection of the blood. Has he had any injuries in the last few weeks where the skin was broken?"
I thought back to a day about two weeks before, when Brian had crashed his Big Wheels into the curb and skinned his knee."
"Yes," I said. "He skinned his knee pretty badly about two weeks ago."
"That's probably where he contracted the bacteria then," Dr. Banks replied. "If we had caught it sooner, it would be a lot easier to treat. But in the last two weeks, it has spread through his bloodstream and to his heart. His heart is very weak now because of this infection and the hole I told you about earlier."
"But he's going to be okay, right?" Harold asked. Dr. Banks looked at us both, sadly.
"I'm sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Littrell, but this infection is 100% fatal. We can no longer treat it. I suggest you start making funeral arrangements because your son is going to pass on," Dr. Banks said softly.
I began to sob. Harold pulled me into his arms, but it was no comfort to me. I had just been told that my son was going to die, and there was nothing I could do about it!
"I'm very sorry," Dr. Banks said again.
"Isn't there anything you can do?" Harold asked hopefully.
"I'm going to start him on some antibiotics, but I'm afraid it has spread too much. They won't help much," Dr. Banks replied. "I'm going to let you two be alone for a bit. I'm going to hook Brian up to an IV with the antibiotics in it. You take as long as you want." With that, he went back into Brian's room.
Harold and I didn't say much to each other. We just hugged and cried together.
After we had finally composed ourselves, we went back into Brian's room. He was still sleeping. I sat on one side of his bed and Harold sat on the other. We both just held his hands and tried not to cry.
A while later, Dr. Banks came back to check on Brian and take his temperature. His eyes widened when he saw the numbers on the thermometer.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"His fever's up to 107° ," Dr. Banks said worriedly. "That's high enough to cause brain damage! We have to lower it."
He hurried out of the room. A few minutes later, he and a group of nurses carried in a tub of ice. One nurse gently nudged Brian awake and carefully took off his hospital gown, leaving him in nothing but his underwear. His face was flushed and he didn't talk, just moaned and mumbled things that I couldn’t understand. I wondered if he was delirious.
The nurses gathered around him and carefully lifted him into the tub of ice.
"This will help cool his body down," Dr. Banks explained. Brian began to cry when they set him down in the ice.
"Mommy!" he cried, his blue eyes wide with fear. I knelt down beside the tub.
"I'm right here, Babyduck," I said, squeezing one of his hands. "Mommy's right here. It's alright."
After a few minutes in the ice, the nurses lifted him back out onto the bed, with just a sheet covering him. Ten minutes later, he was put back in the ice.
This kept up for an hour. Then, as the nurses were laying him back down on the bed, his eyes rolled back into his head, and his grip on my hand went limp. I screamed. Dr. Banks sprang into action. He put his stethoscope to Brian's chest, listened a moment, and yelled, "Get a crash cart in here now!" He climbed onto the bed and began to do CPR while the nurses scurried around, attaching wires to Brian's chest. They turned on the heart monitor that the wires were connected to. There was just a flat line going across it and a loud, continuous whine. Harold grabbed me and pulled me back, as another nurse wheeled in a crash cart. He and I stood and watched in horror as the nurse got out the paddles.
"Charge to 150!" yelled Dr. Banks. He took the paddles. "Clear!" he shouted and put the paddles to Brian's chest. I cried out in horror as my tiny son's whole body shook. But then, the long wail of the heart monitor turned into slow beeps, and I saw the flat line rise and fall unsteadily. I sagged with relief into my husbands arms. I have never been so relieved in my entire life.
"Phew, we got him back," I heard Dr. Banks say. I said nothing, just clung to Harold and sobbed.
By that evening, Brian's fever had gone down a little. But it was still high, and he was still unconscious.
Harold went to call my parents to tell them everything that had happened and asked if Harry could stay the night.
I remained beside Brian's bed, holding his hand and talking to him soothingly.
Days passed, and Dr. Banks told us that if Brian ever pulled through, he would be brain dead. But Harold and I refused to give up hope. We remained at the hospital with Brian at all times.
One night, Harold had gone down to get a cup of coffee, and it was just Brian and I alone in his hospital room. He was still unconscious, of course. All week, I had been hoping and praying that everything would be okay, and my baby son would be all right. But, I knew by now that it was nearly impossible. I realized God had another plan for my son. And so I said one final prayer.
I love my son with all my heart, and I want him with me so badly. He's my baby and I need him. But, I realize that you have different means. I realize that Brian is a blessing in my life, and I know I have to let him go, if it is his time. Whatever happens, happens, if it's meant to be. If you have to take my baby to Heaven, just please watch over him. Thank you, Lord. Amen.
As I finished praying, I looked out the window and up towards the night sky, hoping that God had heard my prayer. Then I began to cry softly. I had given my precious little Babyduck up to God.
The next morning, I awoke to find myself asleep in my chair beside Brian's bed, my head resting on the edge of the bed. I yawned and rubbed my eyes. I looked at Brian. He was still unconscious. I looked around the room for Harold, but he was not there. I wondered what time it was. I would have liked a cup of coffee, but I would never leave Brian's side.
Before I knew it, I had dozed off again. I don't know exactly what woke me for the second time, that early morning, but something did. I stared at Brian for a moment, before turning to see if Harold was back in the room again. He wasn't. I stood up and stretched. I was still exhausted. I hadn't gotten a good night's sleep in my own bed in over a week now.
I started to head towards the doorway so that I could look out and see if Harold was in the waiting room. But as I started across the room, I was startled by a tiny whimper behind me. I spun around. My eyes widened at the sight on the bed. Brian was still lying in bed, so small and unmoving. But when I approached him, I found myself looking into his clear, blue eyes.
"Brian?!" I cried, my voice faltering. I couldn't believe it. I rubbed my eyes, thinking maybe I was hallucinating. But no, when I looked up again, his eyes were still opened. And then he said the most wonderful thing that I have ever heard.
I gasped and began to sob. I ran to his bed and hugged him tenderly, my tears falling over his body. He recognized me! My baby was awake, and he knew who I was! Dr. Banks had been all wrong. Brian was not brain dead. He was awake and knew who I was!
"Mommy, what's wrong?" Brian asked, his voice so soft and weak, I could barely hear him.
"Nothing, Babyduck," I cried, kissing his cheek. "I'm just happy!" I looked down into his eyes, those beautiful, baby blue eyes that I thought I might never see again, and I cried even more.
Then, I ran to the door and saw Harold sitting asleep in one of the couches in the waiting room.
"Harold!" I cried. I didn't care if I woke up the whole hospital. This was a miracle!
Harold jumped up. He ran towards me.
"Is he… is he?" he asked, his eyes wide with fear.
"No!" I cried happily. "Harold, he's awake! He's awake, and he knows me!" Harold's mouth dropped open, and he raced into the room.
"Daddy!" Brian said happily. Harold, too, began to cry and ran to the bed to hug his son.
I ran down the hall and bumped into Dr. Banks.
"Come quick!" I shouted to him. "Brian's awake!" Dr. Banks gaped at me for a minute, shocked. Then he followed me quickly back to Brian's room.
Later that day, after running many tests on Brian, Dr. Banks told us that his fever had gone down, and the infection seemed to be going away.
"It's a miracle," he said. "I can't give you any other explanation for this."
"God just reached down and touched that child," I told Harold, through my joyful tears.
Brian spent a total of two months in the hospital. Even though the worst was over, he was still very, very weak. Even after the infection finally went away, he was too weak to walk and had to be pushed around in a wheelchair. Finally, he graduated to walking, pushing his little IV stand down the hall with him.
When he finally came home from the hospital, we bought him a new bike. It was red, with a yellow seat that looked like a banana. Brian was very proud of it.
After that experience, I was very protective of my youngest son, my Babyduck. But I eventually realized that even though his body was not strong, his willpower was. Eventually, I let him start playing sports with the other kids. He became very good at basketball, and it has been his favorite sport ever since.
As I look back on this experience, I know that what happened to my son was indeed a miracle. God heard my prayer that night, and instead of watching over Brian in Heaven, like I had asked him to, he let Brian stay here with me. I knew Brian was kept on this Earth to do great things, and now, twenty years later, he has. He is my miracle child.
Miracle Child Ó 2000 by Julie