To Love Always, To Heal When Possible
Many of you have been following little Jia’s medical prognosis. We recently learned that the tumor in her abdomen was indeed malignant, and I am so grateful for everyone who is lifting up prayers for this beautiful little girl.
Medical cases likes Jia’s are ones that are quite difficult for us emotionally, because we have to discuss whether or not to provide treatment, and as moms and dads….these are talks that hurt our hearts. Our natural tendency is to say that we will do everything possible to save a child’s life, but then the tragic reality is that sometimes, a child cannot be healed. For many types of pediatric cancer, the cure rate in China is less than 10%. And so the ethical question is raised of whether a child should be put through intense chemotherapy, radiation, additional surgeries….if there is really little chance of a cure. It is then that the difficult question has to be asked of whether palliative care is what is needed.
We have had to make these very difficult decisions so many times in the past seven years, and they are decisions that weigh heavily on us. Last year we had to make the painful decision to not take on any more children with severe heart disease who require a specialized banding procedure. When we had analyzed our data on the children we had tried to heal with this condition in China, we realized that every child we had sent had passed away either on the operating room table or immediately post-op. At least for the children we had sent, the procedure had a 100% mortality rate. And so we had to ask ourselves if it was better to let a child live as long as they could “whole”, or was it better to try anything possible to save their lives, even if trying meant their lives were ended sooner. In this case, we chose the former.
I know it is very easy to get caught up in doing “everything possible” to save a child’s life, but we can never forget that it is the child who feels the pain of surgery; it is the child who is lying in the hospital; it is the child who endures the consequences of our decisions—always. But even in making the decision to not do the banding procedure, each and every time we are asked to help a child who requires that operation to have a chance at life…we question our decision again and again.
I am so grateful to all of the volunteers who give of their time to work in our medical program. So many of the decisions they have to make are truly life and death ones, and when you have a long waiting list of children waiting to be healed, the decisions are always ongoing.
Thank you for continuing to lift up Jia. We are waiting to hear if the cancer has spread throughout her body.
Tony Williams is a father who wrote of his pain in watching his daughter struggle with cancer. His words touched my heart, as I know we all wish there was a way to take the pain away from any child who is hurting:
I’ve watched as you battled, suffered and fought,
and screamed with frustration for I could do naught,
to ease you, help you or take it away,
I sat there helpless day after day.
Let’s never forget to lift up all the children around the world who don’t have parents to watch over them when they are sick. It is such a comfort to us all to know that so many people hold these children in their hearts each and every day.
Amy Eldridge is the Executive Director of LWB and the mom to seven wonderful kids (two from China).