By Mary Latini
It happens to all of us. It could be a tragic event or a sudden onset of an illness or even a chronic disease that steals our ability to function. Most of us try to find our own remedy and do what we know. Sometimes there’s no choice. We are left putting our trust in the hands of a medical professional. Considering that iatrogenic causes (medical error) are the 5th leading cause of death in the United States* it’s frightening to know who to trust. We don’t know where to turn. This is when we fold our hands in prayer. This is when our faith in God and in the hands of a stranger meet. This is when fear cannot prevail and faith must take it’s place.
My son Kevin had a rare form of epilepsy. From the age of 5 he was having an average of 150 seizures a month. We turned to the University Hospital for treatment. We trusted them when they told is nothing can be done. MRIs, CT scans all proved to show “no apparent cause.” so we followed the instructions given by the neurology team which involved a lot of epilepsy drugs and many nights staying by his side when he needed to be intubated. The epilepsy wasn’t getting better. People prayed for us.
After five years of severe status epilepticus seizures Kevin’s neurologist suggested we visit a neurosurgeon, just to see if he might see anything operable. By this point I had lost faith. But before this appointment I folded my hands in prayer. The surgeon took a look at Kevins scans and put his hands on my shoulders. His eyes met mine. “I don’t see anything operable, but another set of eyes might.” He then told me that there are doctors that see 100 kids a year like Kevin where at the University they may see maybe 1 a year. He pointed me in a direction. We were off to put our hands and faith in a new team.
We landed at NYU with one of the best epilepsy teams in the country. After evaluating Kevin and seeing his scans the team decided that Kevin could be helped by brain surgery. The surgeon was a slight man with a humble heart. His office in downtown Manhatten was colorful and bright. He carefully showed us on the MRI that Kevin had something called cortical dysplasia that could be removed and it could eliminate his seizures. After five years of hopelessness, I wanted to cry and laugh I thanked him for his expertise. He put his hands in mine and said “I am no-one, it is not me, it’s the hand of God that guides my hands.”
At this point it had to be my decision to allow major brain surgery on my 10 year old. He would be removing the left temporal lobe of his brain. I paced back and forth for weeks, I prayed endlessly and then I stopped. I decided to listen. The thoughts came to me “Be Still and Know That I am God.” **the words repeated in my head. I knew that this was the right way to go. The surgeon was sent to us and he knew that the decision was one made in faith and from that point the decision was obvious. I put the life of my child in the hands of a brain surgeon, who put his hands in the hand of God.
For me the lesson was to pray, pray with all your heart. But then, listen, have faith and be silent.
* (Anderson JG, Abrahamson K. Your Health Care May Kill You: Medical Errors. Stud Health Technol Inform. 2017;234:13-17. PMID: 28186008.)