A Sure and True Blessing


How do you measure the goodness of God? Is it only in perfect answers to our prayers? Is it only when we are so focused on perfection that nothing less will do? Or is it in finding something worth holding on to when the whole world seems to be falling in a deep abyss?

Shawn Michael Toombs was born with spinal bifida. His mother, my friend, had the hopes and dreams of every new mother. A perfect painless delivery, a cuddly newborn with all their fingers and toes, and the ability to bring home her baby to a new and spotless nursery. She experienced very little of that, especially in the order listed. She had a very difficult delivery that ended in a C- section. Thankfully, her son had all his fingers and toes but also a sac on his back that contained tissue and cerebro-spinal fluid and also nerves and part of the spinal cord. Before she had time to comprehend that the baby, who had made her happy just by moving inside her belly during the previous months, was not healthy, he had immediate surgery and then was put in a body cast.....a series of casts that would be changed frequently over the next 3 years. She came home from the hospital without her sweet newborn. Her days were spent traveling from home to the hospital and trying to comprehend all the instructions that nurses and doctors were plowing her with. Extra minutes were spent on thinking of innovative ways to bath her baby, keep his dressings dry and scratch his itches up under the cast. One blessing found was that 92% of newborns born with a defect as severe as Shawns', also have hydrocephalus. Shawn's brain was fine and healthy.

In all probability, God had already instructed Shawn on his trials that he'd face on earth. He was a happy baby and took his medical crisis's in stride. Maybe it was because that baby knew he was loved and prayed for from the moment of his conception.

As he grew, new problems were discovered and the hospital and doctor's office staffs became his new friends. He had physical therapy, daily medications, catharizations and a whole host of other therapies every day. His grandpa made him a turtle on wheels. His little casted body fit right into the turtle and he could use his hands to wheel around where ever he needed to go. So, while other toddlers were learning to crawl, he was wheeling his way everywhere! As he grew older, medal crutches were made for his wrists. I can not tell you how everyone from church cheered when Shawn walked his little body into Sunday school. He had on a cute little suit... but no one noticed his attire or the large silver crutches. It was his smile that caught everyone's attention... it went from one ear to the other.

Shortly after that, it was learned that his spine was severely curved, almost like a fish hook. All his intestines were being crowded to one side. It wasn't physically causing pain, but not allowing his internal organs to grow. They were to perform a surgery on his spine by inserting steel rods on each side of his spine, hopefully correcting the problem. He would be awake during this surgery so they could see if there was any paralysis. He came out of the surgery suite with no feeling from the chest down. Shawn would never use his metal crutches again. He was given a wheelchair instead. The boy was a menace on wheels at times. But, still a blessing. It was during this time his father chose to walk out of his life.

His grandfather concocted another riding round-about for Shawn. A lawnmower type machine where he could get out in the neighborhood and socialize. That worked well for years until he turned it over one day. It was several days before they realized he had broken his leg because he had no sensation from his chest down. The first of several broken bones. He handled that with his famous smile and attitude and another cast.

Shawn made many friends throughout school and rolled his wheelchair across the auditorium to receive his diploma. He got around in a camaro with modified gears and remained optimistic about everything except his father. His father would go years without even inquiring about his son. Shawn told me once that he thought his father was ashamed of him. "NO WAY," I told him. I tried to explain that his father probably just couldn't handle the feeling that he thought he might be responsible for Shawn's condition. It's hard trying to keep to yourself how sorry and low down you think a man is while explaining to his son that he just has problems. All of us finally quit being nice about his father. Everyone loved Shawn and he couldn't figure out why his dad didn't. But, he was BLESSED with a wonderful step father who couldn't love him more and met all his needs with complete dedication.

For years he has endured many, many surgeries, catheters, needles, daily medications and hospitalizations, and now dialysis. His frequent urinary infections and crowded organs have virtually destroyed his kidneys. Because of his many physical problems, he is not a candidate for transplant. The dialysis treatments are hard and draining on Shawn but he still has that irresistible smile and that wonderful indomitable spirit. He is intelligent, good and strong. (and cute!) That's how he got through the shock of seeing his father walk through the doors of the dialysis clinic. Not to see his son....but, for his own dialysis treatments. He didn't say one word to Shawn - not one. The dialysis nurses try not to schedule their treatments where they can run into each other, but at times it still happens. His father has never spoken a word to his son on those rare times they are there together. But, Shawn still smiles. He realizes it's his father's loss to have chosen not to have a part in his life. I did mention how intelligent he is... right?

My friend's life has not been easy. She has fought every fight to make sure that her son has had every advantage. Shawn has outlived every doctor's estimation of his life's expectations. My friend shared that she was afraid she'd lose it when the time finally came to let him go. I could only tell her to enjoy him every single minute. God doesn't give us our children... He shares them with us. They have always been His. It's our job to love them, mold them and prove to God how worthy we are of His decision to pick us as their parent. When Shawn leaves us, hopefully many, many years from now, I know God will tell him, "Well, done, my good and faithful servant." He'll give my friend a high five and tell her, "You done good!" She has always known her true and sure blessing in Shawn!

Sue Henley copyright July 2002 [email protected]

Shawn is 29 years old now. Please keep him in your prayers. He is hospitalized again at the moment. I'm still nursing part time and writing when I get an extra minute. My two daughters and my husband are a constant source of joy to me!

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