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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