A “Social Distancing” Story

Joan sits by the bed of our daughter. A few weeks earlier Kari had major surgery on her spine. We were warned that she would be in the OR for a long time (as much as twelve hours), but the silver lining was that we could expect a very brief recovery period. It would be nothing like her hip surgery recovery – weeks of painful therapy.

At first things went as expected. The rod was placed in her back, relieving her of the growing pain from her body being twisted. Within a few days we were home and Kari had “grown” 2” taller! But then, with horror, we noticed that her incision site had begun to ooze – all because of a tiny bug that somehow found its way past all the handwashing precautions and sterilizing protocol of the operating room. And so, we are back at duPont Children’s Hospital in Wilmington, De.

More surgeries are needed to clean out the infection. Kari is in an isolation room. Joan experiences the social separation with her.

The bug is hard to beat. Even once identified, it takes several rounds of antibiotics to eliminate it from her body. She would be in duPont for six months!

Our son Jeremy was three at the time. He too experienced “social distancing” of sorts. While I was busy in ministry at Red Hill, visiting Joan and Kari as much as I could, Jeremy was bounced around between friends and grandparents. He celebrated his fourth birthday at the Ronald McDonald House across the street from the hospital.

What good could come of this? Why did God allow this infection that would cause such a great disruption to our lives for so many months? Wouldn’t it have been better if we could have continued to serve in ministry as a whole family back in Red Hill? 22 years have passed, and we don’t fully know the answer to that.

We are thankful for one blessing that came out of that experience. Joan went from being super busy in caring for her children and in ministry to suddenly having time on her hands. Months before she had prayed for a “little” extra time – to do some writing. She suddenly had “lots” of time to write. Out of that came “Joy in a Foreign Land.” One friend suggested that, as she wrote out of pain and with great vulnerability, the words “bled” (rather than were written) onto the pages of her book. Thousands around the world have read that book.

Fast forward to today. We are once again in isolation. This is day 28 for us. Though things are different, it kind of feels the same. This time the bug is out there instead of inside of Kari – and we’re desperately trying to keep it that way. Last time we had a son who longed for time with us. This time we have a son (seven years old) who wants to be just about anywhere but here with us – he misses school and church and friends. I think he even misses his Schreiber therapy appointments! Like last time, there is no end in sight. Instead of a room on the 3rd floor of duPont feeling like a prison cell, it is our own home in which we are confined. Even if the curve is flattened, with three members of our family in the high-risk category, we will have to keep up the protocol until this bug no longer threatens to invade. Even with all our precautions, there is no guarantee that the bug won’t get through, just as one did during the surgery.

What good can come from this present disruption to our lives or to yours? It will take time to see it. But we know that all things work together for good for those who love God. We will understand it better by and by.

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