Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Ray's Story

I’ve been thinking lately about a child I took care of when I was working as a Pediatric ICU nurse in the Chicago-area a few years ago. “Ray” (a made up name to protect his confidentiality) was 22 months old and had suffered severe abuse.

“Ray” was being baby-sat by an aunt/cousin who decided he was old enough to be potty-trained. After “Ray” had had two accidents (after all it WAS his first day in training), the baby-sitter became so enraged, she ran a bath with scalding hot water and placed him in it. He suffered severe second-degree burns (the most painful kind of burns because they burn through to the nerve layer) of his lower legs and privates. When his dad (who was working two jobs despite being only 19yo) came to pick him up after work, the aunt blamed the child, saying he’d run the water and then climbed into the tub. This is, of course, ridiculous but it’s a frequent tactic by the abuser to blame the victim. Even though a child might run hot water in a tub, they would not deliberately sit down in it. It was obvious, from the burn pattern, “Ray” had been placed into the water; all of the burns were below the waist.

“Ray’s” dad brought him immediately to the nearest ER where he was admitted to the PICU for evaluation and treatment. Initially, sad to say just because “Ray’s” dad was sole-caregiver, he was suspected of the abuse, especially when the aunt stated the child had arrived at her home that morning with the burns! Fortunately, it was obvious the burns had occurred more recently than that and the only person who could have done it was the aunt. Despite days of accusations and being suspected of such a heinous crime, “Ray’s” dad just quietly and patiently stayed by his bedside, day and night, caring for him.

The incident I want to write of occurred one night when I was caring for “Ray”. By this time, he was in what’s called the Step-Down Unit (an area of the hospital where the child is too sick for the regular unit but not sick enough to be in ICU). When I went in on my nightly rounds, I found “Ray” had a dirty diaper. His dad who was deeply asleep in a chair by the bedside, had had to quit his job by then because he couldn’t stand for any other family members to care for “Ray” (who can blame him). As I reached for a clean diaper, “Ray’s” dad awoke and stood by the bedside watching me. When I went to clean “Ray” with a baby wipe, his dad stopped me and said, “Let me do it, please.” He took the wipe in his hand and held it until it was completely warmed through before using it to clean “Ray’s” terribly burned bottom. It was one of the sweetest and most loving gestures I’ve ever seen.

It probably seems silly in some ways for me to be so touched by this small gesture of love on the part of a teen-age dad, yet it was profoundly moving. All this dad cared about was that his son not experience any more suffering, even the touch of a cold wipe on his skin.

I think the reason I've had this memory on my mind is it reminds me of the love of our Heavenly Father Who is concerned His children not have to go through suffering and loss resulting from sin (whether our own sin or the sin’s of others upon us), and has provided the way of escape through His Son, Jesus Christ. This escape comes about only because His precious Son was willing to sacrifice His life so that we might have eternal life and to know His nearness in His Kingdom today. Because this world is such a broken, sin-filled place we can never completely escape suffering while living in it (much as our Abba wants us to be free of distress), but when we know Jesus as Lord, we always have the Comforter, the blessed Holy Spirit, on which to call.

It’s hard to sit by and watch family members experiencing suffering, especially when they are so undeserving of it, and have already suffered through extensive illness through this past year. It’s my prayer that they may know the nearness of our Father’s love and the Comfort of the Holy Spirit as they pass through this period of affliction. May it be your prayer, too.

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