Cotton with a Cause
Whenever we would ask our then two-year-old son, Tate, whether he wanted a brother or a sister, without fail each time he would confidently say, "I want both." My husband, Ty, and I would laugh every time because the "plan" was to only have one more child. Well, our sweet Tate knew then what we would find out only a few months later. We were going to have not only one more baby, but two! And yes, Tate would get exactly what he asked for — a brother and a sister!
There are many fears that a mom battles during pregnancy, but two tiny humans bring about twice as many fears. Our constant prayer was that when it was time for our babies to enter the world that we would all come home from the hospital together. The Lord graciously answered our prayers, and our adorable son, Tobin, and beautiful daughter, Tyson, were born at 35 weeks and 6 days - completely healthy and perfect! I remember bursting into big, ugly tears as we drove away from the hospital that September day in 2015 with our two perfect babies tucked in the back seat. I was overwhelmed with thankfulness to the Lord for His faithful protection and with the relief of knowing we had two healthy babies to bring home and complete our family. Little did I know, that wasn't the last time I would cry those same tears....
December had just begun, the twins were almost three months old, and the time had come for me to return to work from maternity leave. I was a ball of emotions, especially since that first week was a work conference in another city, and Ty and I would be out-of-town. My parents were excited to keep the kids that week at their home in Lexington, South Carolina, while we were away. But, my mom called that Wednesday night to tell me Tobin was running a fever. After some calls with the pediatrician that night, we decided to stay, and my mom would keep a watchful eye for any other symptoms. That next morning, Ty and I left early and raced to Lexington. By the time we arrived, Tobin had quickly progressed from having just a fever to being lethargic and in pain. We immediately took him to the emergency room at Palmetto Health Children's Hospital (Prisma Health) in Columbia and soon discovered our sweet boy was battling bacterial meningitis.
His diagnosis was very rare, very severe, and very dangerous. The infectious disease doctors had never seen a case with his specific type of bacteria. Each day at the hospital was a roller coaster all its own with spinal taps, IV attempts, specialists, MRIs, therapies, and CT scans. Through every painful procedure, poke, and prod, our amazing Tobin charmed nurses with his big smile and made new friends each day. After six days in the PICU, he was able to move to the pediatric floor to continue his daily doses of IV antibiotics. We had made a makeshift home between the hospital in Columbia and my parent's home in Lexington while somehow figuring out how to keep it together and to be the parents all three of our children needed. We had now spent a couple weeks in the hospital, and Christmas was almost here. Tobin would spend his first Christmas in a hospital room, so we were determined to make the best of it and to focus on what mattered most — having our family together.
As we made plans to celebrate Christmas in a hospital room, we had no idea what was around the corner. The day before Christmas Eve, Tobin suffered two different seizures. In a whirlwind of only a few hours, we found ourselves sitting across the table from a neurosurgeon that had been called in to perform emergency brain surgery. Tobin's infection had spread beyond just the outer covering of his brain and had started to cause additional complications.
The emergency double craniotomy would relieve pockets of fluid and infection and allow the surgeon to inject antibiotics directly into his brain. Ty and I were in complete shock as we sent our precious baby boy into an operating room full of unknowns. I remember pacing the waiting room in those early morning hours, repeating the only prayer I could think of — "Lord, help!"
We praised the Lord when the neurosurgeon came to deliver the good news. The surgery had gone smoothly, and Tobin was in recovery! Although our boy had seemingly breezed through the surgery, we were cautioned about what the future could hold. We were told it was possible that he might never develop past three months old and that, at the very least, he would most likely experience developmental delays and/or permanent hearing or vision loss. In spite of what we'd been told, we celebrated Christmas that year with a renewed sense of awe and wonder at the work of our Savior. He had carried us through each moment and protected our family in the midst of the worst days of our lives.
Each day after the surgery, Tobin got stronger and stronger. He eventually regained his head control and even rolled over for the first time in his hospital crib! Each day we had a small but incredible victory to celebrate. As the last of his days in the hospital came near, he had one more MRI to check the healing progress of his brain. The neurologist came in with amazement as he told us that Tobin’s brain showed incredible improvement and no signs of the destruction this type of bacteria normally leaves behind! We were overjoyed! After 35 long, hard days in the hospital, our family of five was finally reunited! I cried those same big, ugly tears as we made our way home from the hospital with all of our precious children tucked in the backseat. Again, I was overwhelmed with thankfulness and relief. The Lord had proven that He is still in the miracle business and had displayed His faithfulness at every turn. We knew we would never be the same — but in the very best way.
Today, you would never know Tobin has endured what most will never experience in a lifetime. He is a healthy, happy, and perfect five year old. He has been released from every specialist and has passed every follow-up test and evaluation. Doctors have told us that we've experienced a true miracle, as a follow-up MRI has shown a whole and healthy brain. Sandy brown hair now covers the scars on his scalp — the only physical reminders of that season. Now, you only see a fun and smiling boy who loves play with his collection of toy tractors, play with his sister and big brother, sing songs and make us all laugh!
Our family has experienced a hardship of fear, uncertainty, and tears. But, as we walked through that valley we found a faith, comfort and peace we’d never experienced before. During our time in the hospital, we had many incredible nurses, doctors and staff impact our family - but one particular nurse, Ali, actually gave our family a gift - a blanket. It was such a practical gift for a family "living" in a hospital, but even more, a reminder of the Lord's protection and covering over our family during the most difficult times of our lives. As Covered in Cotton was born, we knew that we’d been given the opportunity to share our story and bring that same faith, comfort and peace to other families experiencing a similar hardship.
So, for every ten Covered in Cotton throws that are purchased, we donate one to a local children’s hospital - with the hope that a simple cotton throw will bring comfort to a family and remind them that they are covered in the faith and hope of another family who knows the valley.
(Our family with Tobin's nurse, Ali, in December 2019)
* Since November 2018, we've donated 530 cotton throws to children's hospitals across South Carolina in Columbia, Florence, Charleston, and Greenville.