Our son had Enterovirus-71 when he was a tiny 7-week-old. He was perfectly fine the night before I found him barely alive in his wee Moses basket. He was in a coma.
You can read his story here, if you'd like to start back at the beginning.
We call him Mighty Joe because he fought the Enterovirus and won, but he carries battle scars in the form of 6 holes in his brain. 6 actual holes, which can clearly be seen on an MRI. It's a little shocking. But you can also see the battle scars in the form of words he finds difficult to pronounce, the extreme ADHD from frontal lobe damage that he fights every day, and the delay or lack of higher cognitive learning functions. Those are the words of his neurologist, as of April 2014.
I know this whole Enterovirus-D68 business is very scary, but I'm upset when I hear the news sources tell us that if those parents had only taken their son with cold symptoms to see a doctor, his life could have been saved. That article is gracious, but there are others in which I won't even bother to scroll down and read the vitriolic comments.
I put my son to bed after having given him an entire bottle of milk (I was fighting a breast infection and monitoring his intake, so I know he drank 6 ounces that night), and he went down just like our other seven babies had before him - sleepy, comfy, content. We had no reason to believe he wasn't healthy. The truth is, there are just some things in life we cannot control. As much as we want to think that we can call the shots and we can make things safe and perfect for our children, accidents do happen. Children do die. There's not always anything we can do to stop it.
But here's what I want to say as one parent to another: We cannot live in fear. I couldn't stand over my babies' cribs and make sure they were breathing in every little breath, but I could pray for them. I could watch them with a careful eye. I could savor every moment that was good and wonderful.
Do we regret that Joe has six holes in his brain as a result of Enterovirus-71? Of course. We often think, "What if?" But there is no what if. In this vast universe where we believe that God has a sovereign hand in things whether they turn out the way we think they should or not, there are no what-ifs. Joe is our beautiful Joe, missing parts of his brain, puzzling us with his ability to do some things but not others, cracking us up, loving us with abandon, singing Let it Go at the top of his lungs, coloring on the walls, knocking over the plants.
It is what it is. He's a beautiful boy. He breathes, he walks, he laughs, and he lights up the universe.
Rest easy tonight, mom and dad. Love and care and nurture and treasure, but do not live in fear, even if a media outlet, doctor, or social worker wants to make you think it's all your fault. There are things you can do to try and prevent illness in your home, and you should do them. But you are not the one who makes the planets spin, and that sweet little one entrusted to your care is ultimately dependent on God for her life. We get to watch and witness the moments, and what a privilege every day we have our children is.