I used to think that miracles all happened 2,000 years ago when Jesus Christ physically walked the earth as a man. Since December 25, 1978, I’ve known better.
My brother’s family (him, his wife, 12-year-old son, and 10-year-old daughter) drove from Georgia to North Carolina for Christmas. Beth – the daughter – had been sick and they’d given her aspirin and put her to bed at the home of my sister-in-law’s parents. It was the afternoon before Christmas.
A couple of hours later, they tried to wake Beth up, but she was unconscious. They rushed her to the nearest hospital. The doctors and nurses were baffled as to what could be wrong with Beth. At random times, she would scream out and it would take several adults to hold her in the hospital bed.
Suddenly, on that evening – Christmas Eve – the pediatrician on the case suddenly remembered having seen a similar case while in medical school. He ordered specific lab tests and rushed the vials to the lab himself.
When he came back to Beth’s room, he told her parents and brother that there was an ambulance waiting to take Beth and her mother to Duke Hospital in Durham, North Carolina. He told them that Beth had Reyes Syndrome. He told them that some children survive it and some don’t. There was no cure for it, and he couldn’t guarantee that Beth would survive the trip to Duke.
My brother and nephew drove the 125 miles to Durham after being told not to even think about trying to keep up with the ambulance.
Arriving safely at Duke, Beth was placed in the intensive care unit for children. The family was told there was nothing to do but pray and wait. Pray, we all did.
The next morning was, of course, Christmas Day. After a sleepless night, my mother, sister, and I rose early and drove to Durham. This was before cell phones and texting, so during that two-hour trip we had no idea what was happening with Beth. We didn’t know if she would still be alive when we got there.
When we arrived at Duke Hospital’s pediatric ICU, we were greeted with smiles. While the nurse was in the room checking on another patient that morning, Beth woke up and asked, “Has Santa Claus come yet?”
Little was known then about Reyes Syndrome. The connection between it and children taking aspirin had not been established. None of us had even heard of the illness.
The doctors at Duke kept Beth for more than a week to continue to test and observe her. They followed her grades in school for a year. They were looking for any sign of brain damage. There was none. They told Beth’s parents that they had never seen a child come out of a Reyes Syndrome coma so suddenly or completely. They said there was no medical explanation for it.
Beth returned to Georgia and continued to have a perfect record in school. She went on to university and earned a degree in math before having a rewarding career in Information Technology with a major airline. She married and is the mother of two high school and college age daughters.
I cannot imagine how our lives would have changed if Beth had died in 1978. She is a joy in the life of everyone she knows. I can’t imagine life without her husband and their two daughters.
And I can’t let a single Christmas pass without remembering Christmas of 1978 when I learned that miracles do still happen.