Posted by: bellissimanh | September 5, 2007

A Mother’s Prayer

This is long, but since I’m meeting so many new friends through this site, and many of you aren’t aware of much of my background, I thought I’d share it anyway. Even those of you who know me well may never have read this. I wrote it several years ago, and it chronicles a journey the Lord took my family through… and His faithfulness.

A Mother’s Prayer

Her screams ripped through the air like lightning tears the night. The sound was piercing, breaking through the monotony of the washer and dryer. I could almost feel the blood in my veins turn icy while at the same time, my heart seemed to have made its way to my throat, pounding there, blocking off my airways.

 I rounded the corner at the bottom of the stairs as fast as I could. The scene in front of me was far worse than anything I might have envisioned, even if I’d had the time to ponder the possibilities. My daughter was on the top landing, completely engulfed in flames—the source of the screams. The fire was so involved that I could see nothing else—not her clothes, not her face. I could only tell it was Jasmine because I could hear the agony and terror in her voice.

 Taking the stairs two at a time I tried to reach her, yet at the same time I was terrified to get close—afraid of the heat, the sound of her hair sizzling, the sick aroma of burning flesh.

 “Jasmine! It’s ok, honey!” What was I thinking? It was definitely not okay. As I reached the top of the stairs I flew through the kitchen. Oddly, instead of the normal dishtowel looped through the fridge door, there was a plush bath towel. One swift tug pulled it free as I raced to the other room, Jasmine having taken off ahead of me in a futile attempt to outrun the fire.

 “Jasmine! I need you to get down on the floor and roll around, right now!” Why had I never taught her this before? It was the first of many regrets and “if only’s.” Somehow my words reached her through the chaotic sounds of her shrieks and the roar of the golden tongues of fire licking at her skin. As she fell to the floor, I beat at her clothes with the bath towel. Just when I would think we had the fire out, some part of her barely recognizable dress would suddenly come alive with flame again, like the nightmare you keep dreaming over and over again regardless of how many times you wake up.

 Finally, mercifully, the yellow monster was reduced to smoldering scraps of fabric hanging off a trembling frame. The moments and hours that followed are a blur to me, akin to a kaleidoscope that turns too fast so that you can’t make out the shapes and colors, only know that they exist. It was January, and the night air was frigid. Not knowing what else to do, I took Jasmine outside and began ripping her clothes off. She must be hot … I’ve got to get her into the cold.
 

My husband Joel drove up as we stood there on the stoop, Jasmine shivering, me frantically peeling the remnants of her clothes off melted skin. There was the collar of the once blue turtleneck, still glowing, reminding me of the edge of a piece of newspaper that’s been set to the flame but hasn’t yet ignited.

 My husband tells me I dialed 911 and handed him the phone, but I have no memory of doing that. I recall pacing the rooms of my house, while making a phone call to my mother.

 “Mom? Could you please call Lane and tell her I don’t think we’re going to make it for dinner tonight?”

 “Sure…is everything alright?”

 “Yeah. Jasmine caught fire, but the rescue squad’s here and it’s ok now.”

 “She caught fire? What do you mean, ‘she caught fire’?”

 “She was on fire—her clothes, her hair…everything.”

 “Well should we come up?”

 “No, it’s ok. I don’t even think we’ll have to go to the hospital. I just don’t think we’re gonna make it to Kevin and Lane’s for dinner tonight, that’s all.”

 Just then a fireman started asking questions, so I abruptly ended the conversation with my mother and answered him as best I could.

 Only four minutes passed between the time we placed the call to 911 and the time we were en route to the hospital in an ambulance, though it seemed like much longer than that. I sat in the front while Jasmine was in the back with the paramedics.

 “Don’t worry, ma’am.” The driver patted my hand resting on the seat. “If there’s anything that can be done for her, they’ll take care of it. This is what they do.” He meant to be reassuring, but for me it was the first indication of just how grave Jasmine’s situation was, and it was hardly comforting. The tears began to flow then.

 Jasmine was flown to the Shriner’s Burn Center for Children in Boston, MA right away. We followed in our car, my parents in theirs. My sister and brother-in-law who lived in Boston met us at the hospital.

 I tried to sleep during the three-hour ride, but slumber was elusive. My body ached from intense sobbing and closing my eyes only made the images of dancing flames more vivid, causing me to relive every second of the fire.

 The surgeon, Dr. Sheridan, was waiting to speak with us when we arrived at the hospital. He was soft spoken and articulate as he told us the specifics of Jasmine’s condition and her prognosis. We made sense of what we could, skipping over confusing terms and phrases that would later become as familiar to us as the kool-aid spots on our living room carpet.

 Jasmine had suffered third degree burns to 90% of her body. If she lived through the night, they would attempt an eight hour surgery the next day to replace some of her burned skin with grafted skin—some artificial and some taken from the only areas she had not burned: her bottom and her scalp. If she survived the surgery, there was a 70% chance she would live. It would be weeks before she would be conscious to communicate with us. We could expect her to remain in the hospital for a minimum of nine months, for recovery and physical therapy.

 After answering a few questions, Dr. Sheridan left us to grieve as a family. We did the only thing we know to do when faced with intense sadness, worry and fear. We ran to our Heavenly Father and placed Jasmine in His hands. We prayed that she would survive the night, that she would be strong enough to endure surgery, that it would be successful, that she would soon show signs of consciousness and be aware of our presence and our love, that she would live.

 We familiarized ourselves with the hospital, finding coffee in the darkened cafeteria on the 9th floor. I stood there looking out over the city and decided that Boston is much prettier without daylight. The many lights twinkle, like stars in a sea of black night. The grime of litter and exhaust fumes are masked by the darkness. The picture was almost comforting—almost. But then from the darkness inside me, rage began to bubble up.

 “Why? Why Jasmine? It’s not fair! Why would God allow this?” I demanded answers as pain took me captive again.

 Joel wrapped me in his arms and gently tried to dispense wisdom that I knew to be the truth. “We don’t get to know why. God has a plan and we have to trust Him.” I knew he was right.

 We returned to check in on Jasmine and went through the necessary procedures. We scrubbed our hands and arms with the pungent antibacterial soap, donned yellow paper smocks, strapped on the blue surgical facemasks that make it hard to read facial expressions.

 The room was very warm and the air reeked of silver nitrate, the chemical used to keep burn patients’ bandages wet. Among the hums of various machines was the steady rhythm of the ventilator, a unique voice giving Jasmine oxygen with each mechanical sigh. The bed was surrounded with plastic—the “bubble”—to ward off cool air and any germs that might cause infection.

 Inside that bubble was a precious package, my Jasmine, in a bed that seemed to dwarf her. She looked like a miniature mummy. She was wrapped in bandages from head to toe with only her eyes and nose visible; even her hands and feet were stubs of gauze. Tubes and wires came from places all over her body, including her mouth, from which the hose for the ventilator flowed. Her little eyes were closed in drug-induced sleep, like soft flower petals awaiting the morning sunshine.

 As we stood there speaking soothing words of comfort and love to her, we received our first answer to prayer. This child, who was supposed to be unresponsive for weeks, suddenly nodded her head in agreement with something we had said to her. We asked more questions to see if she really was listening and communicating or if her reaction had been a fluke. We were rewarded with more nods of the head. Thank You, God!

 The next day, the doctor came to the cafeteria to find us after having been in the operating room for four hours. Dread swept over me as I instinctively expected the worst. The surgery should only be half over! Had she been too weak to survive the operation?
 

Instead of the anticipated bad news, Dr. Sheridan told us that Jasmine had done so well they had already accomplished what they’d planned to do during the course of the eight-hour surgery. Her vital signs were so strong that he was requesting permission to continue with further grafting. We told him to do what he thought best. We thanked God for answers to prayer—Jas not only lived through the night, but also had come through surgery much better than even the doctors had hoped.

 Understanding the importance of prayer and the role it would play in Jasmine’s life, we put her plight onto our family web page so that more people could be praying for her. A site that had seen only 800 visitors in the first year and a half it was up, received more than 39,000 hits over a two-week period following the fire. Jasmine received hundreds of cards and letters each day from people all over the world who were praying for her. Phone calls poured in from across the globe: Africa, New Zealand, and England. As we faced new obstacles in Jasmine’s recovery, they were posted on the web page so that people of all faiths could join us in lifting Jasmine before God.

 Dr. Sheridan told us over and over again that Jasmine would suffer from numerous skin infections, any of which could take her life. It was not a matter of if they would come, it was a matter of how many, when, and how severe they would be. We prayed against these infections, and to this day Rob Sheridan calls Jasmine his miracle girl. She is the only extensive burn patient he has ever seen who never suffered a skin infection.

 A month into Jasmine’s recovery she was doing much better. She was breathing on her own, most of the skin grafting was done; the plastic bubble was removed from her bed. All of these things we considered answers to our prayers, and the prayers of countless, many times faceless others.

 I stepped outside Jasmine’s room to talk with Dr. Sheridan so that Jasmine wouldn’t hear us. It was the desire of my heart to have Jasmine discharged and home by Easter, a mere two months away.

 “She’s doing incredibly well considering the extent of her injuries! It’s really remarkable!” Dr. Sheridan leaned against a wall covered with paintings created by the children being helped at the hospital.
 “She’s a tough cookie, that’s for sure.”

I was encouraged by his comments. “Is it safe to say the threat to her life is over?” I assumed that since they’d removed the plastic walls from her bed this was the case.

 “No. As long as she has open wounds, an infection could strike at any time. There’s no telling how long it will be before she’s out of danger.”

 The hallway started spinning and I felt as if I would get sick right there, all over the freshly mopped tile. My knees gave out and with my back against the wall, I slumped to the floor in a heap, unable to hold back the emotion any longer.

 Dr. Sheridan almost mirrored my collapse, also sinking to the floor on his side of the hallway. You wouldn’t think such a small gesture would make a difference in the way you view a person, but in that moment, my admiration and respect for this man grew. He came down to my level and met me where I was. I sensed great humility in that, and I’ve always respected humility.

 “I don’t mean to be harsh, but there is a long, difficult road ahead of you. You need to be prepared for that. You’re looking at another nine months in this hospital, six at the very least.” I watched my vision of an Easter homecoming evaporate like the steam from a vaporizer.

 “Jasmine is tough as nails, and she’s doing much better than we expected she would, but it would be a disservice to you if I were to give you false hope. That’s not what you need right now.”

 Yes, it is! That’s exactly what I want right now! I wanted to scream at him. Instead I allowed him to help me to my feet as I mopped my eyes with the unraveling cuff of my sweater. I apologized for losing my composure, afraid I had embarrassed him. He smiled, shook my hand and said, “Take care,” then departed for whatever important tasks I’d been keeping him from. The exchange left me with a healthy dose of reality, but I was still confident that Jasmine could continue to hurdle the health problems in front of her and that, with God’s help, we could leave the scientific world in the dust of her progress, wondering what had happened.

 As the days turned into weeks, Jasmine continued to improve. Small things were major victories for her: drawing with a crayon, finishing her lunch, going to the bathroom without a catheter, learning to walk again. We saw each of these successes as God’s loving touch in our lives; we had prayed about each instance, great and small. We have never stopped thanking Him.

 By Dr. Sheridan’s calculations, Jasmine would have been released from the hospital in October. She was discharged on April 17th, just three months and two days after the fire that could have destroyed her. The prayer of a mother’s heart was answered, and my daughter came home four days before Easter, my own reminder of the resurrection.

 Someone once told me they were surprised that the nursing staff could reach Jasmine’s bed with all the angels standing guard. Science cannot explain how Jasmine recovered from her injuries so quickly. It can’t explain why she was never afflicted with infection. Prayer is powerful. I know it. Jasmine knows it.

 Riding in the car on a beautiful day not long after she came home, Jasmine piped up from the back seat, “Isn’t God good?”

 A smile played over my lips as Joel gave her a quizzical look. “Yes…He is. What makes you say that?”

 “Just look at me!” she grinned. Yes, Jasmine. Just look at you!

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Responses

  1. Heather,

    First of all, I’m delighted to be linked to on your blog!

    Second of all, GOD HAS BEEN SO GOOD TO YOU AND YOUR FAMILY!!!

    I read Jasmine’s story with my hands gripped tightly around my laptop. It is a precious, precious testimony that God really is capable of the impossible. What a wonderful example lived out in front of doctors, nurses and really anyone who now reads this story!!!

    Thank you so much for sharing!!!

    Blessings,
    Dori

  2. I’m with you, Dori, I think I lost all circulation in my thumb I was tightly grasping, and sitting on.

    An honor as well.

    Wow. I hate to ask such a personal question, but it persists…how did the fire begin?

    Oh, praise You, Lord Jesus!

  3. I suppose I did leave that out, didn’t I? I’m sorry. 🙂

    When Jasmine was four years old, she had climbed up on the brick woodbox (kind of like a shelf built into the hearth – hard to explain) to turn on a light that was on our mantle. There was a tealight candle burning in a holder on the woodbox. When she reached up to turn on the light, the hem of her dress dipped into the flame of the candle. She ran in an attempt to get away from the fire, but obviously that just fanned the flames.

    Jasmine is 12 now, and while her body is scarred, physically, she’s fine. She’s able to do anything other kids do. She begins the field hockey season next week, and in the winter she loves to ski. 🙂

    She had surgery this summer to release the skin under her left armpit. They made a slice in the skin, and then took skin from her leg and grafted it under her arm, so that she would have better range of motion. She recovered beautifully (although it did mean she didn’t get to swim much this summer). God is so good! This was the first surgery she’s had to have since she was four… and they told us back then that she would need surgery every six months for several YEARS. She was able to go 7 years without any at all. Yes… we serve an amazing God who is able to do exceedingly abundantly more than we could ever ask or imagine! 🙂

    She’s growing up so fast! Into makeup and fashion… ay, ay, ay. Jessica (now 18) was more of a tom-boy (although not anymore, as the picture above demonstrates)… but Jasmine is all girlie girl.

  4. Wow, what an incredible testimony of how God has led you and your family. I can’t even imagine having to go through this kind of a trial. But the whole re-telling just demonstrates so clearly how much God was with you and answered all those prayers. And to know that Jasmine has such a beautiful spirit after it all is the most precious thing ever.

    God bless you and your family!

  5. Heather,
    My insides leapt, “Hallelujah!” with every victory Jasmine had! He was with you from the plush bathroom towel that you grabbed. You never mentioned what happened though, did you? I re-read it and missed it somewhere along the way. I want to teach the stop-drop-and-roll thing to my son today. She is so beautiful as well, the picture above is amazing. God definitely was in the healing. But isnt He always? Glad you posted this for your new friends. And glad I am one of them! -Sarah

  6. Sorry.. I just read the comments and had my question answered.

  7. Sarah,

    I’m so glad you’re one of them as well! 🙂

    ~Heather

  8. I am overwhelmed after reading her story. Praise the name of the Lord. He is so good.

    Thanks for sharing it and giving the Lord the glory.

    Sue

  9. I can barely type because of my tears (and the need to go blow my nose). Tears of sorrow for what you have been through and tears of joy for what our Father in heaven can accomplish through us! Thank you sharing such a beautiful story with such honesty…Jasmine is beautiful!

  10. Oh my word, Heather. That is an incredible, heartbreaking, and wonderful story all at once. Such a testimony to our God of miracles! Thanks for sharing your experience and heart with me and others. Praise God for Jasmine who is whole and beautiful and knows better than most people what God’s hand feels like.

  11. […] the month was out, Jasmine was burned and taken to Shriners. The emotions that enveloped me during those first few weeks made […]

  12. […] in my life and placed me in many different circumstances. Some have been wonderful; some have been tough. There have been times when I have walked away from mountaintop experiences, shouting His praises […]

  13. […] Him.  The cardboard below that reads, “Now I walk with Jesus” belongs to my daughter Jasmine. The opposite side of the cardboard said, “Doctors said I’d never walk.” She is […]

  14. […] over 8 years since I’ve done this?) and we were in the middle of seeing Jasmine through her recovery.  It’s precious to me, not only because it reveals where my heart was during that time and […]

  15. I’ve been reading your blog for some time now, and this is the first time I’ve read your story. My heart is overwhelmed. God is amazingly good. What a beautiful daughter (daughters).

  16. […] show Himself strong. This is a lesson I thought I had learned a long time ago, particularly when Jasmine was younger, but apparently we can all use refresher courses from time to […]

  17. […] and smells can transport you back in time. Walking by the room where we spent so much time as Jas fought for her life – seeing that plastic tent, the silver nitrate stains all over everything, the same familiar […]

  18. […] will never forget looking out over the night lights of Boston with my heart pounding one cold January morning. While the city lay in quiet slumber, anxiety was coursing through me like a runaway freight train. […]

  19. Very nice post. I absolutely love this site.

    Keep it up!


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