Latter-day Saint Life

When a neighbor's casserole couldn't help us in the hospital, I learned to ask for what I really needed

Baby in hospital.

Our baby son had just finished a month of being on ECMO, the most extreme form of life support. He had survived, and so had we, and we thanked God for it.

He was our first child, a perfectly round and happy gift of joy to us. We adored him. And as first-time parents, our adoration seemed to equal our concern for his health and well-being.

My husband and I were packing up, anxious to ditch the hospital and take our precious boy home. But we also felt nervous as parents to assume all the vigilant aftercare required to help him heal completely. Our brains and bodies felt like sludge as we tried to absorb all the instructions.

We had stayed in the hospital sleeping rooms arranged for families in our situation for weeks now. We received little sleep, as we were anxious not to leave the side of our little boy as he continued to fight to stay with us. Our heads throbbed from the tears and stress. We felt like life had chewed us up and spit us out as pulp after the experience.

Regardless, we were ready to take our finally conscious boy into our arms and take him home. But as excited as we were, I still had one reservation about leaving the hospital. And in struggling to find a resolution, I also found a deeper conviction of the importance of asking for the help you really need and of exercising real discipleship.

Well-Intended Casseroles

Our miraculous medical team warned us that contact with any virus may be fatal for our baby boy as his immune system had been dramatically weakened. My husband and I would need to quarantine for four months with him, and they directed us to deeply sanitize our home before we returned with our son from the hospital. This was all happening in January 2018, before most of us understood what “quarantine” meant or to what lengths sanitizing can go.

During our hellish ordeal in the hospital, we had received countless messages of love and support. We were so touched by their love, but also found that it was hard to accommodate everyone’s desire to help. For example, people wanted to send us flowers, but those weren’t allowed into the Primary Intensive Care Unit. They wanted to send stuffed animals, but we didn’t have any room for them because machines took up almost the entire hospital room. They wanted to send food, but that would have required us leaving our son’s side to sign for visitors at the front desk. And then there were all the messages asking for updates on our son’s progress. All of the outreach was, of course, overwhelmingly thoughtful, but managing it all zapped any remaining energy we had.

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Among the flood of messages, I received a few consistent, ardent messages from my Relief Society presidency (who I consider friends) asking when they could bring meals once we’d returned home.

As the time to go home grew closer, however, I found myself anxious not about meals, but about our home not being sanitized effectively. I wanted to be able to cherish and care for our son without worrying about scrubbing floors.

Before responding to my Relief Society presidency’s messages, I swallowed hard. I didn’t want my words to sound ungrateful, but I was tired, and my manners and poise were thin from exhaustion.

More than anything, we needed a clean home, which had been left in who-knows-what kind of state the night we had to bolt to the hospital. So the day before going home, I summoned my courage and made a call to one of the counselors and asked if, instead of providing meals for us, they could arrange for a few of my completely healthy sisters to clean our home thoroughly before we returned, explaining the need for our home to be sanitized.

Within 24 hours they organized more than enough volunteers, found the key to our townhouse, and spent hours wiping down floor-to-ceiling walls and surfaces. They dusted and sanitized all of I’m sure what must have felt like millions of books, and they Mr. Cleaned everything that was Mr. Cleanable.

When we walked through our shining front door that afternoon, we were overcome with emotion. I still can’t think about them all without my eyes welling up with gratitude.

We set our things down, held our boy close, and from the depths of gratitude that throbs inside parents, we thanked God for the real, bona fide relief given us that day.

Seeing the Real Need

No one understood how to serve bona fide needs like Jesus. He saw the desperate father we read about in Mark 9, who came with his ailing son in arms, begging for help.

This father comes to Jesus asking for a miracle—to heal his child from a foul spirit that has afflicted him since childhood. In verse 19, Jesus says, "Bring him unto me,” expressing his desire to help, as many of us would in such a situation. Jesus asks a few questions of the father concerning his situation. As the father explains his desire for his son to be healed, Jesus listens. He sees what the father and son both need and bravely gives it. He saves the little boy and restores the father.

Now we may not be able to literally heal someone in need. But as we seek to follow Jesus’s example, He will help us know how we can serve. Sister Michelle D. Craig taught, “Through the power of the Holy Ghost, Christ will enable us to see ourselves and see others as He does. With His help, we can discern what is most needful.” And sometimes, as was our family’s experience, that means letting those in need tell you what you can do.

Our family made it through the strict quarantine. And with a lot of vigilance, Christ-strengthened faith, and God’s grace, our son made a full recovery. A happy, bouncy little boy, he now relishes books, baseball, and ice cream cones.

As President Linda K. Burton once said, “We can be assured of Heavenly Father’s help as we get down on our knees and ask for divine guidance to bless His children.”

The divine within us inspires us to serve each other bravely. As we do, we can bring each other back safely to the clean, safe feeling of home.

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