Always On The Line by Jan Beiler

“Lord, please let her answer,” I begged. Blood oozed from the scrape on Micah’s temple and a knot was rising on his forehead. I sat on the edge of the bottom bunk bed with a cold wash cloth in my hand and tried to calm him as he thrashed from side to side.

Hot Mexican sun poured through the only window in our boys crowded bedroom. A fly buzzed about, bumbling against the window pane and then darting in to investigate the smell of blood. Phil Hackman, long time friend and board member, sat on the other bunk bed poking numbers into a phone.

Thankfully we had a better phone system by this time.. My Phil stood at the end of the bed holding a church phone directory. “The number you have dialed is no longer in service at this time. If you need assistance….” My heart sank as I heard the faint voice at the other end of the line.

What should we do? Would it be worse to take Micah out over the rough roads to the doctor or run the risk of something serious going on inside him while he tossed about on his bed in our little village of La Esperanza?

The morning had started out calmly enough. Angie Mobley, a friend of ours who was visiting from NC, and I sat at the table sipping coffee and chatting. In the laundry room, Francie stood at the washing machine, fishing towels out of the wash tub and arranging them in the spinner. Valley, Angie’s sister leaned against the freezer, waiting to hang them out. The girls planned to go horse riding as soon as they finished the laundry.

“Hey Mom!” nine-year-old Micah called through the kitchen window. He galloped into view, pulling on the reins of a tall yellow steed. They stopped in a cloud of dust, a huge grin lighting his face. “It’s Kaloka’s horse. He said Francie can use it to go riding but I’m going to ride it now.” “You be careful,” I cautioned.. “He’s tame, Mom. You don’t need to worry,” Micah assured me. “Come on, let’s go!” He dug his heels into the horse’s flanks. The horse pranced past the window. A moment later Valley appeared white-faced in the kitchen doorway, “Micah’s lying in the middle of the road. I think he got thrown off the horse,” she said. I lurched for the door, fear squeezing my heart..

In front of the public school, next to our house, Micah lay sprawled in the middle of the road, the horse a diminishing speck. My feet flew across the bare, rocky soil, as I whispered a disjointed one liner, “Lord, help us. Lord, help us.” I’ve never been good in emergencies and when there’s an injury, if a Bandaid or a Tylenol doesn’t work, I don’t know what to do. I knew it wasn’t a good idea to move someone who had been in an accident for fear of damaging something inside. With Micah lying in the middle of the road, we didn’t have a choice.

There followed a frantic few minutes in which Micah, who didn’t seem to know where he was or what had happened, fought us off as we tried to help him. I could easily imagine terrible damage to his spinal cord or his brain. Especially his brain when he kept jabbering about a white bird and struggling to point at some invisible object. Would our energetic, enthusiastic Micah ever be himself again?

Someone radioed for Phil, who was working at the neighbors about a mile away. With him came Phil Hackman and Joe Miller, board members here on a business trip. By the time the men arrived, Micah lay on Deryk’s bed. The outside entrance door stood open, begging for a breeze and a little more light. I held a drink to Micah’s lips but he pushed it away. He was still flailing about in spite of my best efforts to keep him calm. I felt so helpless.

The adults in the room continued to discuss our options. We didn’t know if he needed medical attention or not, but between us and the doctor’s office lay two hours of driving time, half of it through rivers and up over rocky hillsides. Even on the plateau where the road was relatively straight there were washboard ridges that rattled a person’s teeth. If only we could get a hold of Michelle, I thought for the hundredth time.

Michelle, a member of Phil Hackman’s church, was a nurse.. Michelle had also spent time in La Esperanza. If any one could make an informed guess, it would be Michelle. Phil Hackman laid the phone on the bed beside him after another fruitless try. “I know we’ve all been praying,” my Phil said, “But Joe, will you lead us in prayer together for direction?

We all bowed our heads and Joe asked God to show us what was the best thing to do. As he calmly put words to the frantic scramble of petitions in my head, I could feel the tension begin to drain from me. I knew God was there with us in that stuffy little bedroom. Maybe we couldn’t contact Michelle, but with God the line is always open.

I didn’t know how this episode was going to turn out. Would Micah survive? Would he be crippled, or brain damaged? I knew that God could raise him up immediately, like he had done with Jairus’ daughter, if He chose to do so. I laid my hand on Micah s chest. His heart beat had slowed considerably although he still moved his head from side to side. “It’ll be okay,” I whispered.

Phil Hackman looked up. “You know, I wonder if I’ve been dialing Michelle’s old number? She just recently moved into her new house. I’m going to call Heidi and find out.” A hurried phone conversation with his daughter ensued, and in a few minutes Phil was scribbling a number on a scrap of paper.

Even if you had Michelle’s correct number, she was a hard person to contact. If she wasn’t at work, she was out mowing her lawn, or off checking on some ailing neighbor. We finally tracked her down at Miss Susie’s house. “It’s a risk,” Michelle said after she weighed our story against the terrain. “At this point, I’d say you’re better off to stay home, but keep a close eye on his pupils. Make sure they are reactive and if one reacts differently from the other, you ‘d better take him to the doctor. Or if he has a severe headache, it could indicate his brain is bleeding.”

I quailed at the thought of reading the signs. Where’s the line between a headache and a severe one? Suppose I didn’t pick up on his eyes not dilating together? I sat by Micah s bed after the others had lingeringly departed. He had fallen asleep and now that he wasn’t writhing and twisting, he looked so small and innocent with his dark head against the white pillow. My heart hurt for the little fellow who was so often in trouble. What would an active child like Micah do if he had to be confined to a wheel chair for the rest of his life?

You know, I reminded myself, God didn’t dramatically raise Micah up when we prayed. But He did help Phil think of trying Michelle’s new number. And He did allow Michelle to advise us. I just know He’ll continue to help us. All that night and all the next day Micah lay in bed, lethargic and uncharacteristically patient. He didn’t want to eat and his siblings and I tried to think of things to tempt his appetite to no avail. We had to keep urging him to drink so he wouldn’t dehydrate. Five-year-old Donovan hardly knew what to do without Micah to shadow. He dug in his treasure container for a match box truck. Maybe that would spark an interest in playing. Micah smiled wanly, took it and parked it on the bed beside him.

On the afternoon of the second day, Micah wanted a Popsicle. Our neighbor, Beti, sold popsicles for fifty centavos each. How gladly I dug the coins out of my purse. That evening as I was pressuring beans for supper, I heard a squawk in the bedroom and Donovan charged into the kitchen. “Mom, Micah won’t let me have my match box truck. He says I gave it to him to keep.” Oh, praise the Lord! I rejoiced. We have our Micah back!

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