As long as I live I will never forget these words. I was on holiday in the UK with my son and at around 8 pm my phone rang. It was my Thai son-in-law. He was crying and said these words
“Mom please come”.
Bronwyn, my daughter had been in hospital for about a week struggling with severe joint pains, a rash and then a cough. She started coughing up blood and her team of doctors were waiting for blood test results from Bangkok to try and make a diagnosis. On the Wednesday she was moved from the private hospital to the local government hospital and around 2am her oxygen dropped below 85 and the doctor decided to put her on a ventilator to help her breathe. It was as this was being done that I received the call from Noiy.
I made a decision to get on a flight as soon as possible and arrived in Bangkok, just over 24 hours later. Bronwyn had been moved into ICU and a diagnosis had come while I was in flight. She was diagnosed with an auto immune disease called Wegener Granulomatosis. It is an absolute miracle that they were able to diagnose as quickly as this is not a disease seen in Thailand. In fact, Bronwyn is only the second patient that her Rheumatologist has seen with this disease. This specialist also had just been at this hospital for 2 months.
The next 5 days were tough as I watched my child fight for her life. It is no easy task to watch your child with tubes down her throat and nose and a swollen face. We could only see her for a few minutes a day. She underwent plasma exchange, blood transfusions and was started on a strong dose of steroids to counteract the inflammation in her blood vessels. This disease attacks the blood vessels and the lungs, kidneys and sinuses. In Bronwyn’s case, her lungs were the organ of choice for the attack.
Bronwyn’s dad arrived from South Africa at the same time as I did. At the hospital we found Noiy, together with Sam and Pat, leaders from YWAM Thailand as well as her good friend Uan, who was with her when she went onto the ventilator. Pat is a nurse and was able to give us a brief overview of what the diagnosis meant as well as what to expect when we went in to see Bron for the first time. Any parents worst nightmare. My heart broke as I looked into her eyes. Thank goodness we serve a mighty savior and all I could do was pray for a miracle.
Our main role was to look after Daniel and Naomi so that Noiy could concentrate on being with Bron 24/7. We arrived at the school to collect them that afternoon and the struggle between concerns for Bron mixed with the challenges of looking after 2 little souls in a foreign land where neither of us understand a word of Thai. Noiy’s mom was also at the house and speaks no English. The movie “Lost in Translation” and Exotic Marigold Hotel came to mind many times over the next 10 days. The children became the translators and we were not always sure we were getting the right message.
Just 24 hours after arrival, I tripped and fell outside the hospital and hit the pavement with my nose. I spent the next week with 2 black eyes. The same day, the dog JoJo escaped and I watched Peter and the kids chasing the dog all over the neighborhood. He returned home in Peter’s arms, but made a good job of scratching Peter all over his body. A few evenings later, Peter kicked his toe in the dark and walked around with a bruised very sore toe for the rest of the trip.. A few nights later, in a monsoon rain storm we knocked over a motorbike behind our car as we tried to reverse. There were many days where the laughter and tears were very close together. The heat, rain, near hysteria and two very busy children kept us on our toes…..
The love, support, prayers and encouragement started to flow from friends and family all around the world. Social media is a wonderful tool in this kind of scenario. I am so grateful for the prayers that helped fight back on Bron’s behalf. I know that this is what made the difference. Prayer chains were formed all around the world. His people prayed for her. The servant leadership of Sam, Pat and Uan was tangible. They did not leave us for the 5 days.
It was tough to have two scenarios playing out at the same time. We tried to keep life as normal as possible for Daniel and Naomi . We did not want them to see their mom hooked up to machines. Yes we admit there were ice creams every day and more screen time than they are normally allowed but this gave us the balance we needed too. At night both of them slept with me in the bed. The first few nights were hectic and between adrenaline, worry and prayer I did not get much sleep. The last 10 days was such a joy. To have their little hands holding tightly onto mine was a gift I will always treasure.
After the 5 days in ICU, Bronwyn was moved to a private ward after they administered her first chemo treatment. She remained there for 7 days while the doctors monitored her organs and reaction to the drugs. Thankfully all seems ok and after 7 days came home 7 kg lighter.
Bronwyn has always looked after her health. She is fit, eats well and is a long distant runner. Thankfully this all helped her to fight her symptoms with vigor. This disease needs hectic treatment for up to 2 years and the aim is to put the disease into remission. No one knows what causes this disease, nor what triggers it. For now we are believing that the disease will go into remission as quickly as possible and that the rest of her life will continue to be a testimony and encouragement to others.
Our lives changed in an instant and we do not know what the future holds. We do know who holds our future in His hands. The author and finisher of our lives. We trust and walk in faith, encouraging others, praying for complete healing and that this moment in time will be a testimony to many over the years to come.