Our life recently has been like a rollercoaster ride, with ups and downs and round and round, twists and turns that make your stomach turn, it makes one nauseous and sometimes even sick enough to hurl!

But when we come off a rollercoaster ride we feel so exhilarated and realize what a thrill it is and don’t regret even the nauseating upside down twist when you thought you might just die. Like modern rollercoasters while more thrilling than the golden oldies we also feel more secure in the five-point harness seats that lock into place and keep you safe through the upside-down twists, head spinning turns and thrilling speed.

God is our safe rollercoaster seat. He is there to hold us tight when we’re thrown through the air with speed, get turned upside down in a spiralling twist and through to the exhilarating end. It’s Him who takes us through it all and at the end gives us the rush when we look back and see what He has done.

Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”.

PART 1…

Our family is growing!

On the morning of 29th September and the last day of the school term, I woke up both excited and nervous, since Jonathan and I suspected that we may be adding to our little brood so before he and the kids left for work and school, I took a pregnancy test that I had bought the previous day, those three minutes seemed like and eternity, finally the little screen displayed “Pregnant 2-3 weeks”, we’re expecting baby number four! We are so, so excited at the news and we could hardly contain our excitement until we could tell the kids later that day! Our family is growing, the boys were ecstatic when we told them! Joel obviously didn’t understand but he cheered along with Caleb and Craig as if he did anyway. We told the extended family that weekend, and slowly told close friends too. We’re having a baby, we had also just gone to view a house that would be perfect for us and we love, and wanted to put in an offer, a short school break was upon us and I had some activities planned. We were on top of the world!

A few days into the school break, on the 4th October, my mother-in-law planned a day out with Caleb and Craig, they went to a petting zoo and fed donkeys and even alpacas, then went on to enjoy some playtime at the park and then out for lunch. A day well spent for two busy boys on their school holiday.   I was at the office when my mom called from home, my mom-in-law had dropped off the kids but noticed that Craig wasn’t feeling well for a small while before they got home, he was complaining of abdominal pain. Shortly after getting home though his condition seemed to have worsened and he was doubled over in pain and had vomited too. Upon hearing this, after putting down the phone with my mom, I immediately called our doctor and booked the first available appointment, which was about 30mins later. Thankfully I work close enough to home and the doctor that it was just enough time to leave work, get home to fetch Craig and go straight to the doctor’s office in time for the appointment. I asked Caleb to come along since they’d had been together all day and I was hoping Caleb could help with any questions the doctor had if it was related to something he ate or did leading up to the sudden pain.

I watched the doctor performing the examination, as he felt Craig’s abdomen on the left, no reaction from Craig, on the top, seemed fine too, when he put pressure on the right side though, Craig screamed in pain. Watching this the first thought that entered my mind was that it’s his appendix. The Doctor said it seemed like it may be appendicitis confirming my suspicions, knowing we weren’t on medical aid he asked us if he could call Red Cross to speak to the surgeon on duty there about it, we were sent to the nurse’s station in the meantime to try to get Craig to pass urine so they could test a sample before going to Red Cross and while the doctor was on the phone with them.  In the waiting room, I realised that I had left my phone in the car and I couldn’t go myself to fetch it, and couldn’t send Caleb alone either, I was a bit distressed since I needed to call Jonathan to let him know what was going on. An elderly gentleman sitting next to me, who had been waiting on his wife to get some tests done, kindly offered to walk with Caleb to the car so he could get my phone (Caleb knew exactly where the car was and where to get my phone I just wasn’t comfortable sending him out to the parking lot alone), I gladly accepted his offer and they came back a few minutes later with my phone and I thanked him kindly for assisting. I immediately called Jonathan and he left work immediately. I had just gotten off the phone with Jonathan when in walked my father-in-law Randy, since Jonathan had called him and they live about 5 minutes away. The GP had spoken to the lead paediatric surgeon on duty at Red Cross and he suggested we go there immediately so they can assess him and run the necessary tests. Jonathan arrived and we went straight to the hospital with Craig.

Craig’s first night in hospital, and it’s obvious that he is in lots of pain

On the drive to the hospital all I kept thinking was, gosh! This is the first time one of my kids would need anything more than some antihistamines or an antibiotic, and now he’ll need to have surgery! Trying to calm down, all I could do was pray, asking God for peace and to keep Craig safe, trusting God and that it would all go according to His will. As we arrived at the hospital, the doctor at triage examined him and called on the surgeon for a second opinion since while he thought it indeed presented as acute appendicitis, Craig didn’t have any fever which is usually associated with appendicitis. They decided to admit Craig for observation and would reassess his condition in the morning.

The morning of the 5th October a team of doctors examined Craig again (since Red Cross War Memorial Childrens Hospital is a training hospital, this was usually the case when the doctors made their rounds in the wards), by this time Craig was so sick of all the doctors touching and pressing on his stomach that he hardly made a sound and stared with a straight face at them, when they put pressure on his right side however, he couldn’t resist flinching at the pain. They could still tell he was experiencing pain in the area and although he didn’t have any of the accompanying symptoms, they were still concerned and needed to go in surgically to have a look. He was booked for an emergency appendectomy. He went in at about 11:30am and the surgeon doing the surgery came out not long afterward calling us aside and said that they had discovered that it’s not actually his appendix, but that there was a mass of blood around his kidney and she’s almost sure it’s from a ruptured tumor of the kidney, commonly known as a Wilms Tumor . Craig had to go for a MRI scan which would take about an hour, to confirm the diagnosis and plan the way forward, all while still under anaesthetic. After the MRI, they confirmed it was indeed a ruptured tumor and it, along with the kidney would have to be removed. He would go back into the operating theater immediately, and also explained this was a very dangerous procedure, that it would take around 3 – 4 hours and that the risk of him losing a lot of blood is very high! Not exactly what a parent wants to hear! Doctor also secured a bed in ICU for after the surgery expecting him to need to be needing the highest care available afterward. They Doctors gave us chance to see him and give him a kiss before going back in.

MRI just confirmed diagnosis and Craig is rushed back into theater, we get a quick moment to give him a kiss

At that very moment our pastor, Lizelle called and asked how we are, I just couldn’t hold it together any longer and broke down on the phone at the news we had just received, she prayed with us right then on the phone. I had also just been chatting to my boss’s wife, Arlene and they, along with so many friends and family all over, had been praying continuously for Craig. Right after getting off the phone with Pastor Lizelle, Arlene sent a message asking what was going on, I was shaking so much I couldn’t type out a text, and instead I called her. I started explaining what the doctor had said and just couldn’t help but break down on the phone with her too, I had it on speaker so Jonathan could speak too she handed the phone over to her husband, and Errol prayed with us too, I was still crying at this point in-between trying to speak. We felt better after talking to them, not because of anything specific they had said but just because in those moments we just couldn’t think straight, our world was spinning out of control, and all we needed was for someone to pray with us right there and then. For a while after, Jonathan and I just stood holding one another in the foyer for a while, before going back to the waiting room.

We had been talking to our parents and family groups all day and some of them were on route to meet us at the hospital right then, but just in that very moment God put it on Arlene and Lizelle’s hearts to reach out just then when we needed it.

Jonathan and I are very blessed to be able to work for such great companies and even more amazing people in it, bosses who are more like family than mere employers. They have all been extremely supportive during this whole process and both Jonathan and I have been able to be away from work when needed, whether it was days or weeks at a time. I have a very good relationship with my bosses, Errol and Arlene, so turning to them in our time of need was not something unusual to do. We’re all like family in the organisation, we’re more than employer and employee or even colleagues, they all count as part of my family. We are able to confide in one other, share our troubles, celebrate, rejoice, laugh and even cry together and support one another always. Family is not just what we say the organisation stands for but it is who we are, which is why working for Family Policy Institute is not just a job, it’s a calling. It’s where God has placed me. Above I also mentioned that the first person we spoke to after hearing from the doctor was our pastor, Lizelle, as a member of a spiritual family (our church) it was rather apt that the person we first spoke to was Pastor Lizelle, and then Errol and Arlene (who were also pastors at our church before establishing Family Policy Institute). The four of them along with our head pastors, Pastor Wayne and Karen, we’ve known and have looked up to since we were teenagers, all of them at some point have played an integral part in our lives, they’ve counselled us, Pastor Wayne married us, they’ve prayed for our babies at their dedications and watched us grow into the people we are today. Our family too has been so so amazing and have been with us through it all, we don’t know what we would’ve done without them, they have done so much for us, our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and close family friends, all of them, but just then in that moment God knew exactly what we needed and who we needed to speak to, and just then in that time he used Arlene and Lizelle, and we are so grateful for the part they played.

Errol & Arlene

The FPI Family

Dieter, Carol, Jonathan, Taryn, Arlene, Errol, Mario & Henry

Pastors Hilton & Lizelle

Pastors Wayne & Karen

After only an hour and fifteen minutes the surgeon came out, I started trembling thinking the worst! Why else would she be out so quickly, it had to be bad news… I just couldn’t help thinking it. She smiled, and I immediately calmed down, she said that they were done, they got it all! Her words were that “it was the best and worst case of its kind” seeing our confusion, she explained that it was the worst rupture she had seen and had he gone one more night without surgery she doubted he’d have made it, but it was the best outcome, more than they ever expected from a rupture like that, when they opened him up the whole mass just oozed out. She then added that Craig was stable, and didn’t need to go to ICU at all and that he’d go straight to the general ward. A little miracle! We were so happy to hear that it had gone so very well!

Craig spent a few days in the general ward, at first, he would not talk to, smile or even acknowledge anyone! It was his way of dealing with the pain he was just completely SILENT. A couple days in though, and with the help of his soldier toy, some mini visitors and an aviator dog plushie appropriately named Captain Smiles we got our smiley boy back. We got to go home five days after his surgery.

Then the wait… waiting for the pathology results from the tumor histology was nerve wracking but we were so relieved to have Craig smiling and chatting and happy, and oh so proud of his “superhero scar”!

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