What originally taught me to be Still Thankful during difficulties? What was the foundation for my creating www.stillthankful.com?
Today, we know our way around Children’s Medical Center, but on February 27th, 1995 we were clueless, hopeless and helpless novices as eleven-month-old Trenton was intubated in the ER before being taken to intensive care on the fourth floor. Valerie and I, blindsided and stunned over our predicament, stepped off the elevator to see that Pat Hobin, from Park Cities Presbyterian Church (PCPC), HAPPENED to be waiting for us. The church had begun four years earlier, and was already so large that it established “Care Clusters,” small groups for members to connect with one another. The head of our care cluster HAPPENED to be volunteering that day in Children’s ER, HAPPENED to notice our names on the list and HAPPENED to contact PCPC for help. Pat sat with Valerie and me through what was, at that point, the most difficult two hours of our lives.
Once in Trenton’s room, as he lay nearly motionless on his back, sedated and covered with tubes and wires, Val and I cried on each other. In the middle of our self-pity, a woman walked in to introduce herself. Cathy Headrick, head of the ICU nurses, said she would do everything she could for us, and just so HAPPENED to be a member of PCPC.
That evening, as Trenton’s heart rate neared 200, pastor Skip Ryan and a few elders from PCPC visited to pray over Trent. By the end of their prayer, Trent’s heart rate HAPPENED to decline over 20 beats.
A few days in, Trent was having difficulty and we urgently needed x-rays from his pediatrician. I stayed in his room while Valerie went to the ICU waiting room to call a friend. Val began crying during the conversation and I wasn’t around for her, but Bob Mighell, a friend from our Sunday school, HAPPENED to step off the elevator at that very moment, providing a shoulder for Valerie and a deliveryman for our much-needed x-rays. The occurrence from our perspective was ideal, but later hearing Bob’s account made it divine.
Bob said he felt the Holy Spirit telling him to leave work and go to the hospital, so he did. In those days, Children’s had only one gated, paid parking lot and five metered spots across the street. Bob had no money on hand, however one metered spot HAPPENED to be open with plenty of time on the meter. Bob parked, crossed the street, entered the hospital and stepped on the elevator where he said a brief prayer, “God, please show me what to do.” Seconds later the elevator doors opened up on the ICU waiting room where he immediately saw Valerie, in tears and in need.
The care continued. Days would pass when we didn’t know big brother Austin’s whereabouts; PCPC mothers had him. Our house was not only cleaned but redecorated. Stan Keith organized an answering service to provide friends and family with updates and an opportunity to leave encouraging messages. Food was delivered to the house and the hospital. We were offered homes to stay near the hospital. And PCPC friends joined us at 4 AM after Trenton arrested.
Men from Sunday school visited me to give a donation the class had collected, since I hadn’t been working. I refused, feeling it was too much for us to accept, but leading to one of the greatest lessons of all our journeys. Bill Biesel got in my face and calmly, quietly, yet firmly said, “Don’t deny us the opportunity to serve.”
Nearly every moment of his stay, Trenton had family or PCPC with him. PCPC mothers took turns sitting with him throughout the night so Valerie could sleep in the ICU bunk room, and I could stay at home with big brother. Even during heart transplant surgery, one of the surgeons HAPPENED to be a member of PCPC, so God even put PCPC in the operating room.
It was wonderful, but the routines of life took over. The transplant had been successful; Trenton grew into a cute, healthy boy; and we moved to a suburb too far to continue our membership at PCPC.
And then it HAPPENED again, nineteen years later. Trenton had suffered a heart attack following his sophomore year at college and was now sitting in a bed at Baylor hospital waiting to hear whether they would list him for transplant #2.
Walking to Trenton’s room one afternoon, I passed an elderly gentleman at the elevators and HAPPENED to recognize him immediately. A second of hesitance occurred as I contemplated whether to continue on, but I stopped, turned and approached him.
“You’re David Burgher, right?”
“And your wife is Nancy?”
I proceeded to explain to David - one of the founding families of PCPC, and volunteering that day at Baylor - our history with the church caring for us, and informed him of our current challenge.
We went our ways after the brief discussion, but just like that, we were back on PCPC’s prayer list, and ministers visited, and PCPC friends contacted us.
I saw David again a few days later and he asked, “Would it be alright if I stopped in to meet Trenton and say a prayer with you?” I eagerly confirmed, and at 1:30 on a Friday afternoon, David joined us in Trent’s room and prayed for us.
Two hours later, the cardiologist HAPPENED to report, “Well, get settled in. We’re gonna list you, but we first need insurance approval for the surgery. You can’t get that on a Friday afternoon, so we will get it Monday morning, and list you that day, or Tuesday at the latest.”
Monday seemed far off, but he was the expert, so we agreed and I soon after left to be at home with Allison, now in high school. Before reaching my destination, Valerie called. “Hey, the cardiologist came back, and he was mistaken. Somehow they already got Trent approved. We can list him tonight.” And just like that, at 6 PM - four-and-a-half hours after David Burgher’s prayer - Trent HAPPENED to get on the transplant list.
And just like that, at 3 AM the next morning - nine hours after being listed, and thirteen-and-a-half hours after David Burgher’s prayer – a heart HAPPENED to be available and Trent was soon prepped for surgery.
It’s that old question – does God give you more than you can handle? In my blog “How to help,” I mentioned that I don’t believe God GIVES His children bad things; the world has plenty of that, and it’s often more than we can handle on our own. One reason God allows bad things to occur is so we can take care of each other, and he puts us in a place to help or be helped. In our case, He HAPPENED to “customize” our caregivers.
Allie graduated high school last year, so we sold the house, moved near PCPC and HAPPENED to rejoin. It’s interesting how things HAPPEN.
David and Valerie Cary were founding members of PCPC . After moving away for several years, David and his wife rejoined the church in 2016. They have been married nearly thirty years, and have three grown kids. David created Still Thankful (www.stillthankful.com) in early 2016. His goal is to inspire others by sharing lessons learned from raising a child with two heart transplants and cancer.