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A remarkable mom shows how love can aid healing

January 13, 2000|By JOELLEN BARNHART

As my husband and I enter my 4-year old son's room at Johns Hopkins Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, I'm filled with relief to see Adam. He is calm, awake and resting comfortably following surgery to insert ear tubes and to biopsy some muscle tissue. The big worry over his reaction to anesthesia is behind us. Adam appears stable.

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I release my fix on my son and scan the room. I gasp as I notice Adam's roommate, a tiny, frail baby wearing only a diaper and blue booties. Immediately, my eyes swell with tears.

I wonder why such a beautiful baby has so many wires, tubes and needles stuck in him.

I'm hit with an enormous sense of guilt, too. A reaction to anesthesia, which never materialized for my son, consumed my energies and thoughts for weeks.

Now it somehow seems trivial.

What happened to this precious little child? Will this baby live? What could his mother be feeling? How can she possibly cope with a baby who obviously has so much wrong with it? How would I react if this were my baby?

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And before I have the answers, the baby's mother and grandmother smile and extend a welcome like no other. They are genuinely happy to see us and genuinely interested in my son's condition. I wonder how they could think about anyone else but themselves and that tiny baby lying motionless on his back.

Nurses, doctors and residents stream in and out of the room checking dozens of monitors and tubes. They feel it, too. There is happiness in the air and it's contagious. Open-heart surgery is giving new life to, not taking it from, this 3-month-old baby named Seamus.

Intensely, I study Seamus' mother. A trained special education teacher, she has learned complex cardiology medical language fluently in three months. She uses it to make sure every medical detail is attended to.

I can't help but be mesmerized by her constant vigil and upbeat tone. "Super Seamus. That's what you are. Super Seamus," she whispers over and over to her son. This mother has her own direct line feeding into the recovering of this baby. Its medicine is potent - love. When she cradles him and all of his technological lifelines in her hands, I know Seamus will be fine - by the grace of God, sophisticated medical savvy and a mother's will - Seamus will continue to pass along his proud Irish heritage.

My son's admittance to Johns Hopkins Pediatric Intensive Care Unit was brief but intense on many levels. The 24-hour visit was a privilege. I never slept a wink. I didn't want to miss a moment of a miracle.

Today Seamus continues to recuperate at home under the watchful eyes of his father, 22-month old brother, and of course, his remarkable mother. My son Adam is blessed with a fine recovery as well.

I still feel the intensity of that room. The greatest struggle I felt was leaving. There is something extraordinarily soothing about a mother's strength working in sync with God's plan.

JoEllen Barnhart is assistant to the director for Frostburg State University's Hagerstown Center. She has three sons.

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