The Parable of Luke, Part 1

by David Sherwood  |  February 6, 2012

The great Hellen Keller is noted as having said, “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.” A little over two years ago my wife and I had a most unexpected door slam shut just as we were walking through it. It smashed us in the face, knocking us to the ground. Then it came off its hinges, fell on top of us, sprouted arms, and began to poke us in the eyes.

At least that’s how I remember it.

It was hard for us to take our eyes off this heavy door since it was flattening our noses with its closeness. However, rather divinely, we realized almost immediately that if we did not get out from underneath this evil door, it would quickly crush us out. God intervened upon hearing our cries for deliverance. He picked us up, dusted us off, and gave us a shove in the direction of the doors opening all around us.

We were idiots.

In September of 2009, my wife was great with child, our second. We were eagerly awaiting his arrival, and naively and self-absorbedly praying that this baby boy would not have quite as much energy as our first son. It would be just too overwhelming, we thought.

We were idiots.

Five weeks before the due date, our Ob-Gyn sent us to have an extra ultrasound, because he saw what looked like an enlarged heart. Not thinking too much of the extra visit, as we were told it was probably nothing, we strolled into the office that crisp fall evening stressing about working out childcare for our first son during the upcoming delivery, and the anticipated lack of sleep from new night time baby cries on the horizon.

We were idiots.

The ultrasound gel on my wife’s bulbous belly was barely cleaned off, and the high risk doctor was suddenly in the room with a serious look in his eye. He showed us a picture of our son’s brain, and the large venous malformation in the middle of it. In his 15 years of practicing high-risk obstetrics, he had, he said, never seen anything like it. The last time he remembered hearing about our son’s condition was in med school in a textbook chapter on rare infant brain disorders.

SLAM! We were on the floor, hardly able to breathe.

There were no warnings––35 weeks of perfect check-ups. The doctor called the hospital to advise them of the situation. No one felt remotely comfortable with delivering our child. We were referred to a top-tier hospital two hours away, which offered only a slightly more encouraging option. Our son would need to be delivered very soon, as the enlarged vein in his brain was seriously taxing his heart.

We returned home, and I began the Google marathon. I read every available article about my son’s condition. They were not encouraging. I found that just 10 years earlier, his condition was a death sentence. However, there were new techniques in endovascular brain surgery that had dramatically increased the life expectancy of those born with VGAM (Vein of Galen Aneurysmal Malformation). Many kids are now able to be cured of the malformation, but the quality of life, post-rescue, is a game of wait and see, day by day.

After reading articles for hours, I literally began to call the authors. Not feeling like we were offered much hope at the hospital, I wanted to find the best person in the world to deal with our son’s condition. Within four hours, I had the three top interventional neuroradiologists in the world call me on my cell phone! Two days later we were on a plane to Manhattan, to check in to St. Luke’s-Roosevelt hospital.

This was opening door number one: God’s Word was given its proper place, woven deep into our hearts.

Dr. Alex Berenstein, the pioneer of the novel VGAM surgery method would be operating on our son. Luke required two eight-hour surgeries within two days of delivery. He survived, and spent the next six weeks in the NICU at St. Luke’s. The miracles and heartbreaking setbacks experienced in those six weeks would turn this blog into a book. It was a refining time for my wife and me, yet we could not understand the peace we were experiencing. God’s promises went from being quaint phrases stitched into throw pillows to becoming like food––and we were starving! We found all we could eat, and more, as God’s words came alive to feed us in our wilderness experience.

Baby Luke

Here Luke is two days old. This was taken just before he went in for his first surgery. I remember taking lots of mental images of him, not knowing what the results of the surgery would be.

This was opening door number one: God’s Word was given its proper place, woven deep into our hearts.

During those six weeks we would not allow ourselves to believe that we would one day leave with Luke in tow. We were preparing ourselves for the worst. Through an agonizing process of taking three steps forward and two steps back, Luke became well enough for us to reasonably believe that he could get out of the box in which he had been living, into our arms, and out the door to home.

Baby Luke

Every once in a while I'd get a finger squeeze. They were magical.

After four weeks of requiring a respirator, and our only being able to touch him through access holes in the incubator, the day finally arrived when the tube came out of his chest, and he came out of his box into our eager arms. It was a high day. On two previous occasions upon leaving for the night, we were told that if his respiration numbers remained stable that he would be able to get off the vent the next day and be held. Both times our hopes were dashed; a severe staph infection, and then a 1-in-1000 fever reaction to administered platelets smashed our spirits to pieces.

Baby Luke

Here is Luke at four weeks old. He'd been through two surgeries, a life threatening staph infection, and a stroke. He'd just been taken off the respirator, and was my first time holding him. I could have sat there for days.

With each setback and subsequent crying out to God, we regained the mysterious peace Scripture promises. Eventually, fewer monitors were required, and the unplugging process began. He was going to live! On a perfect November afternoon, we walked out the door with our tiny son snuggled into his car seat.

Unfortunately, the door was both literally, and figuratively, a revolving one.

Baby Luke

This was his first day of being completely disconnected. The feeling of holding him without having to be concerned about any tubes, or wires being yanked out of place was heavenly. I did sit there for hours.

Read Part 2.

David Sherwood is an Academy Bible teacher in Collegedale, Tennessee. He has a wife, Jeannie, and three crazy kiddos: Noah, Luke, and Anna Joy. He was converted from his secular, self-focused life at 23 years old. His passion now is trying to focus, and harness the energy, stubbornness, and faith-filled naiveté of teenagers for the work of the kingdom of God. David enjoys taking photos of his kids, writing down random thoughts, dining out with his wife, philosophizing and studying the Bible with with young people, and trying to avoid serious injury while reliving his glory days on the basketball court. While not at school, he can almost always be found at home working along side his family to habilitate his 2-year-old, brain-injured son, Luke, who has given them more spiritual instruction, and inspiration than any book, or sermon ever could.

David Sherwood Bible Teacher
Collegedale Academy
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  • Matthew

    That’s an amazing story! So often God works through terrible adversity to build our characters. Ultimately, all we have is faith in God, in what he has and will do. I am awed by your story and I know it will touch others in the same way, thank you.

  • Karina

    I sit here with tears running down my cheeks, I am so touched by your story. I know a little bit about what it’s like to be scared for you child’s life. I lost my firstborn son, my firstborn twin, 25 days old. He had been sick at the hospital, but was cleared. Everything fine, they said. He died in my arms, in his sleep, and there was nothing I could do. By the grace of God, I still have his brother. I would have been broken beyond repare without him. And I cannot wait to get my boy back when God comes again. Without the hope of Jesus returning, I don’t know what I would have done. My favorite vers in the Bible is The Book of Revelation, chapter 21, verses 4 and 5. No more tears, no more death, always life and perfect joy, together with all our friends and family and offcourse Jesus 🙂 Thank you for sharing your story.. Means alot 🙂

  • Kyle

    You inspire me Sherwood, thanks for sharing.

  • Elmany

    “God’s promises went from being quaint phrases stitched into throw pillows to becoming like food––and we were starving! We found all we could eat, and more, as God’s words came alive to feed us in our wilderness experience…God’s Word was given its proper place, woven deep into our hearts.”

    As soon as I read those words it was like I was able to taste and see that the LORD is good. Thank you so much for your testimony. This is powerful. God bless you and your family!!

  • Emily Koteles

    Amazing story Dave! It’s incredible how our gracious Lord and Savior blesses us, even when we don’t even always realize it right away. You are truly blessed with two beautiful little boys. Keep writing!

  • JoAn Hodet

    Wow!!! God is so wonderful! This is a story of miracle, love, strength, courage, hope, trust and complete surrender to our heavenly Father! What an inspiration to us all. You guys are amazing parents. Thank you for sharing your life and story with us. We will keep praying for Luke and your beautiful family. Send my hugs and love to everyone.

  • Matt Parra

    Luke. Hang on!

  • Virna Santos

    God is amazing! I am left tearfully inspired and in awe of His amazing Love and the Faith He has blessed you and your wife with! At times, when we perceive all the signs as pointing in the direction that God is NOT in control, HE truly IS and HE shows us His wonders! God will continue blessing you and your family!

  • David Asscherick

    Luke is my hero, and so are his parents.

    Thank you, David, for sharing what Jesus has done for you!

  • Kevin Cashatt

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I can’t imagine what this was like. God is so good and merciful. This was needed for me to see the small trials I am in are small…..very small. Thank you Jesus!

  • Heather Kalua

    I have just been amazed over and over at how God has been glorified in Luke’s life. Your family is such an inspiration and an example of what God calls us to when we are going the trials. Thank you so, so much for letting Him live in you! People can really see. And seeing helps strengthen my faith. Love and prayers, Heather

  • Robin

    God Bless! Your journey is an inspiration to young and old! The miracle of life is just that, a miracle. You and Jeannie are thought of and prayed for daily!

  • Brittany O’Neil

    What a beautiful, heartbreakingly familiar story. Our now 8 year old son has a VGAM. He was treated with a successful embolization at 10 days old and has thrived since then. Every single day, he reminds us how close God is to us and how much He loves us.

    “And a little child shall lead them.” Indeed.

    GO LUKE! We’re praying for you!

  • James

    Thank you for sharing Sherwood. I cannot imagine what that would be like. I loved the part about the promises of God being food, and that you were starving. I have had moments where I have felt the same way, so desperate and needy. If I could only see how much I need Jesus everyday…Thanks for sharing.

  • Jenny

    Our stories are idenitical!We too were told our little girl had an enlarged heart, also thinking nothing of it we went to see the specialist, we too saw that look in his eyes! we too saw the mass of blood pumping into her brain, and after that our lives and worlds would never be the same. You were so lucky to have Dr B on your case, we unfortunatley lost our little Maddi at 4months, after a very long and courages fight. You are truly a very lucky and blessed man!

  • Jan Allard

    So inspiring and beautifully written, Dave. A great example of the power of God’s Word. As always, your family is in my prayers. Love to you all.

  • Bobbie Vedvick

    I have followed your road through Sandy and Chad since before Luke’s birth. I’ve held my breath through your ups and downs. But this article goes straight to the heart. Your little Luke will one day run in perfect health over the grassy knolls of Heaven and what a moment that will be for him AND you to ex[perience. Before this world is over we’ll all have to have our faith tested to the breaking point. Your experience is truly an inspiration. Thank you for sharing.

  • Thomas

    I know the story of Luke. I have been there since the beginning. I have seen the trials and pain of David and Jeannie.I pray for them every day.Some people have told me that it may have been better if Luke had died.If that would have happened I would have missed seeing miracle upon miracle.Luke is an inspiration. A gift that God has again given to us as a reminder that He truly exists.To see what I have seen and to have felt what I have felt truly humbles me. Im a very proud father and very lucky to be Lukes grandfather.

  • David H.

    Hi guys! On January 16, 2012, after 8 years of trying to conceive, my wife and I had little Emile. 10 days later we were in a hospital with our worst nightmare. Our boy had Vein of Galen.

    It’s amazing how Jesus draws us closer to him and how our faith is strengthed through him if we pray. The power of prayer has never failed, when it comes from the heart and when it’s in Jesus name. I ask god and thank him every day for entering into our lives even though it’s not the way I would have liked. It truly is a spiritual journey that has strengthen me and I believe god has enabled my wife and I to endure the pain.

    Emile is 4 weeks today. He had coiling last week and is improving. I hope to share this with him and many others and explain to the glory and truth of our lord Jesus Christ.

  • Brooke Durst

    Peace – such a beautiful thing and perhaps one of God’s greatest gifts to us. Many times when I have been discouraged, frightened or hurt I have found myself singing one of my favorite hymns, “Does Jesus Care?” This is frequently the question that’s at the forefront of our minds when we encounter hardships.

  • Jenny

    Hi, This is for David H. If you like you can join us on the Face Book page Vein of Galen, we are all parents who chat and help each other out.
    http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/5624487177/
    http://www.vogmparents.org

    Wishing you all the best.

  • Brandon Dorn

    These are amazing stories. You and your wife’s continual faith through all these troubles is truly amazing! My faith in God feels strengthened from reading these two blogs!

  • Tyler B.

    i really like the story Mr. Sherwood it is really inspiring 🙂

  • sabrina herrera

    thanks for sharing..this is soo inspiring to me