This is the tale of two brothers, each born with separate life-threatening medical conditions. I am their mother. I prayed day and night for God to intervene and heal their broken body parts. God said “yes” to one request and “no” to the other.
Or so it may seem.
Our oldest son Anderson was born with a hole in his heart. Because he also has Down syndrome, he was monitored by a team as soon as he made his entrance into the world. The cardiologist walked into my recovery room with a white jacket and a warm smile. He told my husband and me about the defect but said the hole was so small he was 90% sure it would close.
After months of grieving his Down syndrome diagnosis, and finally beginning to see his extra chromosome as a gift instead of a curse, that same doctor called me. I was pulling into the grocery store after school drop-off, when he said something I’ll never forget, “I sent Anderson’s case to a team in Phoenix, they don’t believe the hole will close. He needs open-heart surgery.”
It felt like a bomb went off and I didn’t know what to do with the pieces left behind. I was angry. I was livid. Really, God? Really? Why would you let me believe you would fix this? After all we’ve been through?
Two years later, I found myself pregnant with another little boy. At 14 weeks, the nurse couldn’t find a heartbeat. That led me into an ultrasound room staring at the most frightening image I’ve ever seen. Our son’s heart was beating, but his abdomen was so distended, it hurt to look at.
It took an entire month for the doctor to give us a diagnosis.
She sat at the foot of the ultrasound bed covered in white crinkled paper with concern spread over her face. She told us our son had a Posterior Urethral Valves—a blockage in the lower urinary tract that affects the kidneys and lung development. She wanted to know where our heads were at because if we were terminating the pregnancy, a decision needed to be made.
The ultrasound tech asked the doctor to look at the pictures of the bladder. It appeared to have a hole. She got up and looked, sat back down and said, “I don’t know if you’re praying people, but this hole in his bladder may be an answered prayer.”
We transferred our care to a top children’s hospital. Preston’s images didn’t look like a traditional PUV case. So, we went through two days of days of testing—MRI’s, ultrasounds and more to see if the diagnosis was correct. At a roundtable with three specialists, they told us our son did, in fact, have a lower urinary tract obstruction most likely caused by PUVs and we came up with a care plan.
And then Preston came. In a room with nearly two dozen medical professionals, he was born with the most skeptical look on his face. They whisked him away for what would be days of testing.
There were no PUVs.
Weeks later we went back to see if there was a blockage in his upper urinary tract. There wasn’t.
That afternoon we sat down with Preston’s pediatric urologist. I told the doctor I needed him to walk through my pregnancy with me and he was kind enough to do so. I chronicled up until week 25 and he said, “Everything you are describing sounds exactly like a PUV case.”
After months of trauma, a cloud lifted and I could see our son received the miracle we prayed for. It just didn’t look like what I imagined.
Preston only has one functioning kidney and he was born with clubbed feet. He has medical issues, but they are minor and almost nonexistent now. Preston’s never had an invasive surgery or dialysis and with one fully functioning kidney, he should not have to endure what many boys born with PUV’s go through.
So, why did God give one son a miracle and not the other?
I don’t think it is in God’s nature to love my younger son more than the older. I don’t think it’s because we prayed more, although I do believe we are called to pray persistently. I don’t think it’s because we were somehow better people by the time the second medical crisis came around, that somehow our prayers were better received.
I think the answered prayer had very little to do with who we are and very much to do with who God is, even if I don’t understand His ways.
The truth is, none of us will ever know why God chooses to intervene sometimes in this life and not others.
But here’s the thing: I think both of my sons received miracles.
When God wanted to start the Israelite nation, He sent a man to build it. When He wanted to rescue the Israelites from slavery, He sent a man to deliver them. When He wanted to spread the news of Jesus, He sent men and women to build the church.
I believe on this side of heaven, God designed us in such a way to do good works for Him. He designed us to be each other’s miracle workers, to belong to one another and ultimately to belong to Him.
The medical team that stitched Anderson’s heart back together—they are miracle workers. Some of them endured decades of schooling and give up so much of their lives to give children a chance at making a life of their own.
I believe this is the way God designed it. If He said “yes” to miraculously intervening at every request—that would be a perfect world, and not the fallen one we live in.
I know this doesn’t make it easier. I’ve been in the surgical waiting rooms where you may find yourself sitting now. It’s not fair. This life is not fair. But if you find yourself wondering where God is in the middle of your medical crisis, I believe He’s in the surgical room. He’s in the minds and hearts of those imperfect people who said “yes” to an incredible calling to helping others like your child and like mine.
I also believe He’s in the waiting room with you now, even if you don’t feel Him. I believe Jesus came to earth to endure human trials of all kinds; including hearing “no” and feeling abandoned by His own Father.
And sometimes, for reasons I will never know, God says, “yes” to showing His divine nature and bypassing human hands.
Of course, we all want to be the latter. But know if you aren’t, you may have gotten a “no” to divine intervention, but maybe it wasn’t a “no” to a miracle. I know it’s not how you want it, it’s certainly not how I wanted it to be for my first son either. But, a miracle could be waiting at the hands of an ordinary person called to do the extraordinary.