“Josh, pull over quick!” Kycie had just thrown up for the third time in two hours. Every time we would feed her, she would throw it right back up. This was a problem as we had just dosed her insulin and her blood sugar was plummeting. I pulled our heavily loaded Yukon XL onto the right shoulder of Interstate-15 and quickly ran around to the back of the car to grab what I could to help. The Yukon was stuffed tight with Kycie’s wheel chair and months of living supplies from the hospital. Kycie hadn’t even been released form Primary Children’s Hospital for 5 hours and I am already looking for my escape route. The rain had quickly soaked through my jacket and the passing cars sprayed me with a muddy mixture of water and dirt. Jamie had undressed Kycie and was trying to clean her off best she could while I held up a towel to shield them from the relentless rain, at the same time allowing the smell of an orange color puréed food/vomit to escape the crowded car. I felt bad for our two passengers, Autumn and Emily, who had come to help.
I handed Jamie a container of apple juice that would be used to try and bump Kycie’s blood sugar up. Kycie cannot swallow, so food and liquid must be pushed by hand with a 50ml syringe through her g-tube. Her glucose meter read 45 and I was pretty sure there was no food left in her belly as most of it was in her car seat or on the back side of the passenger seat. No doctors to help, no nurses to call on. No bed to lie her down on or a sink to use. Jamie and I had to rely on the training we received at the hospital and try and keep a cool head. We "burned" our exit strategy 111 days ago. We were 100% committed to taking care of Kycie, even when it seemed like we were trapped and we had exhausted all of our strength. We had to dig deep and find a way.
You see, in 1519 there was a Spanish Conquistador named Hernán Cortés that landed on the inland plateau of Mexico. Cortés and his 600 men, 16 horses, and 11 boats set out to do what no other army in the previous 600 years was able to do. Conquer an empire and colonize Mexico. No matter his motives, Cortés was able to motivate, inspire and embolden his troops to do the impossible. Shortly after the army of Cortés landed on the seashore, they marched inland off the sandy beaches of the Yucatan Peninsula toward their enemies. It was then that Cortés gave the order: “Burn the boats.”
The decision to burn the boats was bold and could have backfired. If Cortés and his men were on the brink of defeat, there wasn’t an exit strategy in place to save their lives. With no way out, they had two choices – die or fight with enough character to ensure victory.
The first few days in the hospital were very difficult for our family. Not knowing if Kycie was going to live or die always had us on an unwelcome roller coaster of emotions. They explained to us that the areas of Kycie’s brain injury controlled most of her unconscious and autonomic functions like heartbeat, breathing and body temperature just to name a few. These automatic functions, once life support was turned off, would likely stop and she would die. If she doesn't immediately die, we are looking at the possibility of Kycie living out the remaining days of her life confined to a bed in a vegetative state. In those early days at the hospital, Kycie was able to give us a glimmer of hope when she cracked open her eyes for a few seconds. Letting her parents know that she was still in there and that all hope was not lost.
The night after Kycie opened her eyes, Jamie and I took up our regular positions where we keeled on either side of the bed with Kycie in the middle laying on the bed. We had stayed up late the night before discussing our options and what was in the best interest, not only for Kycie, but also for our other 5 boys. We decided we were going to leave it up to Kycie, having faith in our Heavenly Father that he would grant her the agency to choose. As we knelt across her with our hands intertwined on her chest, we told Kycie she could go heaven if she wanted. Mom and dad would be very sad and would miss her very much, but we would be okay and completely understand her decision. However, if Kycie decided to stay and fight, we would be 100% committed to taking care of her. In a sense, we told Kycie that we would burn the boats. We would have to burn the vessels in our mind that was keeping afloat anger, fear, doubt and frustration. That night the three of us decided to go all in, and no matter how hard things would get, there was no turning back.
We were back on the freeway again trying to get Kycie back to her own bed for the first time in over 100 days. Many friends, family and complete strangers were also anxiously awaiting her return. The St. George police and fire departments had arranged an escort as we neared our home. The community had gathered along the road with signs and banners while close friends and family crowded in front of our home, along with all of Kycie’s friends from pre-school and her church primary classes.
I started to question our decision to give Kycie a homecoming as it started to look more and more like we might have to stop at the emergency room once we pulled into St. George. Of course we were new at this whole diabetes game, even though she had been diagnosed almost 5 months ago. Jamie pricked Kycie’s finger every 10 minutes and celebrated each raising point in her blood sugar. Her low blood sugar had Kycie clammy, upset and shaking. It was still raining as we pulled into the church parking lot on River Road in St. George to meet with the police and fire escort. Kycie was naked and wrapped in a blanket so Jamie quickly changed her into her last clean pair of clothes and held her tight as we followed a police care and fire truck toward our house and towards Kycie’s brothers. Her blood sugar had slowly climbed to 65 and this seemly endless 5-hour drive was almost over.
A steady rain soaked the desert for almost the entire 310 mile drive south, but it became more intense as we pulled into the red rock landscape of St. George. However, as the escort was only a mile from our house the rain eased and the clouds started to break. 'Welcome Home Kycie' banners were hanging from fences and on both sides of the street you could see children standing close to their parents hoping to catch a glimpse of the little girl they had all been praying so earnestly for. Still unsure how Kycie would react to loud noises, Jamie was reluctant to roll down the window for very long and kept her hand over Kycie's ears. I could no longer swallow my tears as we pulled into our cul-de-sac and saw friends waving, family crying and dozens of little children holding a Welcome Home Kycie sign in front of our house.
Amazingly, “He parted the heavens and came down” (2 Samuel 22:10). The clouds literally opened up over our house as I put the car into park. Pictures were sent from all over town capturing the scene of an angel’s return home in Little Valley. Sunbeams broke through the dark sky and a rainbow arched over Washington fields. Jamie rolled down the window and held her crippled little girl tightly in her arms as the children started to sing I Am A Child Of God.
“I am a child of God. And He has sent me here. Has given me an early home. With parents kind and dear. Lead me, guide me, walk beside me. Help me find the way. Teach me all that I must do. To live with him someday.”
There were so many special, life long lessons learned that day. One touching lesson for me was from a picture I received of Jamie holding Kycie. Reminded of a painting depicting Matthew 9:35 of a mother holding her crippled daughter before Christ.
It is possible that the mother in this painting had also burned her boats. Having to destroy doubts, feelings of inadequacy, thoughts of self pity and lay everything upon the altar of Christ. This is not lip service alone. She was a doer of the word, not a hearer only. How far did this mother have to walk to bring her sick child to Jesus? How long had she taken care of her beautiful daughter before presenting her at the feet of Christ?
We were still in the middle of our family storm when the picture below was taken. We did not know what was ahead of us. “O man of God, … follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight, lay hold on eternal life.” (1 Tim. 6:11-12). We cannot afford to have one foot in the fight, and one foot out! We must “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men.” (2 Ne. 31:20) Jamie and I were fully committed and had burned our boats long ago.
Jamie carried her once spunky and full of life little girl up the driveway that she had so often played on. Her legs were bent over one arm, her body sagged in the middle and her head cradled in Jamie’s bosom. As the clouds began to close the sunbeams slowly faded and a light sprinkle of rain started to fall again. Worried about Kycie’s low blood sugar, feeling exhausted from the endless drive from Salt Lake and with the lingering reality of the difficult road ahead, Jamie walked into the house after just a short wave of appreciation to all those who had come.
Kycie was carried into our bedroom and was laid down on the make shift bed we had prepared in the corner next to the window. After getting her settled, with a bath and a fresh coat of baby lotion, the commotion of the day started to fade. Finally, after 111 days, our family of 8 were all under one roof again. A tangible feeling of peace and serenity filled our home, as the eight of us were able kneel in prayer to regroup, reset and retire for the night.
We were not alone that night or any night as a host of angels were round about to bear us up. Getting Kycie home did not make things easier, in fact things were harder. However, although things were harder, they were better. Our girl was finally home.
I have reflected a lot about this day that happened one year ago. I never noticed the break in the clouds and a pause in the rain that day. I was too caught up in the moment to admire heaven smiling on our little girl 58 days before she would return to her Savior's arms. We were lucky, because there were so many other people paying attention, taking pictures and documenting the event. Had it not been for them, I would have missed this special gift from God. There are so many families going through tough and difficult times. Families who have lost a child or a wading through trial after trial. I promise you, heaven has and does open up for you. There are sunbeams over your house, but like me, you might not notice them. I know God sends angels to help us even before our darkest hour. Look back, and you will see what I mean. Kycie's heavenly gift to our family was not unique. However, the fact that so many people witnessed it was distinctly special. Kycie is sealed to me and Jamie forever and this day was a powerful confirmation of that truth.
KYCIE'S WELCOME HOME VIDEO
by AUTUMN SHIPP