I thought I was beyond being scared, I'd lived through a war, and all that came with it. Years later I found myself kidnapped by the Mai Mai in the Congo, forced to watch as one by one those around me lost their lives while mine was repeatedly spared. I was taken hostage at gunpoint by a crazed patient after he had terrorized my wife and young son. For hours I endured physical and emotional abuse at his hands, with the threat of death a constant thought until that moment when he took his own life instead of mine.
Of all of those instances and the people involved however, I can honestly say that none scared me worse then my own infant son, and I know, it's not the same type of a fear, but it's fear nonetheless. I look back now on those first months of his life, all those days that I watched him struggle to do nothing more than breathe. I don't know that I have ever known a fear as great as what I experienced during that time, but, it was more then just fear, it was the helplessness. I'm a doctor, I'm supposed to save lives, and all I could do was stand there and pray that those into whose hands I had entrusted his care could keep him alive.
I remember standing there in the NICU, listening to the sound of the vents, and all of the other noises in that small room that come together to create a symphony of life and hope. I remember wishing I could do something for him as he lay there, swallowed up by all of the tubes and wires. I remember thinking how tiny he looked laying there, how he didn't deserve to go through all he was going through, and as much as I wanted him to live, I didn't want him to be in pain. I remember thinking about how hard I had fought to save Jasna's life only to fail, and here I was doing nothing for Joe, and I very likely was going to lose him as well. Then I remember hating myself for allowing doubts of his survival to even enter my thoughts.
In the end though all I really could do was pray. I begged God to let me keep my little boy, after all, I'd already given him two children, wasn't that enough? I don't think I've ever been as scared of anyone or anything as I was in those early weeks of Joe's life. Making it through his surgery, and then watching him grow strong enough to one by one lose the various tubes andwires that had been his lifelines in those early weeks. It took longer for the fear to leave, and I hope I never again have to experience anything like it.
We were lucky, Joe is a happy, active, normal two year old now, and I thank God for every day I have with him. I know too, that as lucky as we were, many other parents were not. Not a day goes by now that I don't look at him and count our blessings, he truly is our gift from God.