Reflecting on Advent and Waiting in a Pediatrics Intensive Care Unit

Last week, our 6 week old spent the week in pediatrics ICU recovering from RSV (Respiratory syncytial virus).  It’s a common virus that most people’s immune system easily fights but is dangerous to the elderly and infants under 6 months.

Thankfully we were able to bring Dylan in before the infection turned into something more severe like pneumonia and become potentially life-threatening.  Though he stopped nursing and was becoming dehydrated, he received iv treatment and regained healthy fluid levels.  Taking turns, my wife would stay the day while I would be with our 19month old at home, then I’d return and spend the night there.  Before this our parenting badges were puked stained sweaters.  Now, we were earning our hospital bedside vigil pins too.

In previous years, I would spend the time of Advent preparing my heart for the celebration of the coming of the Christ-child.  I like the season of Advent and I wish my fellow Christians would not spend so much time and energy miserable about who says season’s greetings and who says Merry Christmas.  And I would probably fight harder about that but frankly I don’t want to spend my Advent season fighting about not fighting over the Christmas space in our public arenas.  This year, I was even less inclined for we were waiting for our child to be discharged from the hospital.

Waiting is never easy for our human nature.  It carries too much fear and anxiety.  Questions emerge like, “What if this gets worse?”

Even waiting while you are optimistic isn’t easy. Because you can be fully optimistic, completely confident, “certain of your faith” as some might say, but until it comes to be, you still have to wait.  This was my type of waiting.  It seemed pretty clear that Dylan was going to be alright, his body just needed to recover.   In my heart, there was no need to hedge my bets.  I just had to wait.  And it was here that I relearned a lesson.  Waiting itself is a gift.  It creates suspense, tension and the promise of joy.  It insists that you must seek something greater, something not bound my deadlines and time tables, something bigger than the diagnoses and probabilities. It’s not a thing at all, but you realize you’ve been given a place to seek the presence of God that you realize.  Inadvertently, a holy sanctuary is created.  If we think that fabled manger scene is an odd place to meet God, so is a pediatrics ICU.

Praying at a hospital is nothing new.  There a lot of tearful sincere prayers offered from there.  Their elevators have carried more than just physical bodies but also, fears, pain, and grief.  My heart broke for those in rooms next to me.  While there, I saw a patient that had been admitted after us being discharged.  Initially, I was envious but the looks on the parents’ faces were not ones to be jealous of.   Because of germs and fragile health, there were no parents sharing stories in the hallways. And you knew you were in a tough place when you would get a cup of tea and the only sound coming from the rooms were not televisions but rather the chirping of machines.  For me, waiting in suspended joy seems to be this year’s advent theme for me. Others were experiencing a different kind of waiting.  And it’s not easy to forget that paradox.

Sunday morning, our pediatric doctor came in and told me that Dylan could go home today.  Even my iphone auto-correction could not keep up with my joyful fingers as I texted my wife.  I changed Dylan in a record-setting 34 minutes, collected our bags, bundled him up in true “A Christmas-Story” fashion, and whispered a prayer of thanksgiving hoping that this was the last time either of my children would lay in a metal crib. We said our goodbyes to all the nurses and doctors, removed the baby lo-jack (not kidding), signed the papers, and got out of there.  I stood at the end of the hallway waiting for the security doors to be opened afraid that they would change their minds upon reading some new medical research absolutely relevant to our case.  We finished our waiting, let’s go.

I got to the elevators,  pushed the button a couple times (as everyone knows, it makes them come twice as fast), and made sure my car keys were in my coat pocket and not in my jeans, we had to get home.  Unfortunately, the elevators were extremely slow.  I waited.  Pushed the buttons.  Waited more.  A small crowd collected.  Everyone commented on how cute our son was.  Finally, the door opened right in front of me.  But as it was, it was filled with a giant trash bin and a two janitors.  We laughed awkwardly as the doors closed.  We waited longer.  Then I realized, the janitor staff would probably be finished with that floor and I couldn’t bear the thought of seeing them and their cart again so we waited no more.  We headed down a different corridor, got on a different set of elevators and got out of there like we were on the Shawshank Redemption (minus the crawling through the sewer thing).

Advent is about waiting, but as to all great stories, there’s more.  There’s a climax to the story too – a joyful one.  And it’s about being released and returning where you are supposed to be.

Leaving the hospital (twice now) with this healthy child has truly been great joy.  Even greater is the promise that the Christ child is/was filled with.  Babies are the promise of life.  Dreams, genealogies, futures are wrapped in them.  I swear it’s part of what that makes that new baby smell so unique.  As a Christian, I believe the joy of our children is heightened by the hope and promise of the work of Jesus.  For me, waiting in that hospital room knowing that a healthy, beautiful future awaits our son because of the life of Jesus allowed was a gift of Advent.  That said, I hope to avoid this hospital next December.


  1. Read this last week on my iPhone, but wanted to comment to say thanks for sharing this. We are so glad that Dylan was able to be home on Christmas and is feeling better.

    We love you guys… Blessings and peace to the four of you.

  2. Thanks Jason. Can’t wait til our sons are in the same room together.

  3. Beautiful, honey. I really enjoyed reading your perspective, seeing the situation through your eyes. So thankful for you and our little family.

  4. Darci Cruthers says:

    Tim & Susan,

    We love you guys and are so thankful that Dylan is doing better. I’m so sorry that you had to go through that… but at the same time I am again in awe of the Lord – who shows Himself to us in a new fresh way through the most difficult times. Because of this the worst times can be the sweetest. I hope that someday we can see you again. Thank you for sharing your heart, it was a blessing for me.

  5. Darci!
    Thanks for commenting and I’m grateful that you were blessed by it. I still owe you and Howie a few blessings but it’s a good thing I’m on the slow motion payment plan.
    Hoping that things are transitioning well in CA.
    Grace to the Cruthers in 2010!

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