Go outside and walk for 10 minutes in any direction. Now imagine that the distance you cover in those 10 minutes is as far as you can travel for the next month.
Take your 4 year old son to the Emergency Room 14 days in a row. In rural Thailand. Where you don’t speak the language.
Here is how it all happened.
On Monday, we moved to Lopburi, Thailand. Our home for the next year. Where we would study Thai language and begin our life as missionaries in Thailand. We unpacked, settled in and started orientation for language school.
On Wednesday, we purchased bicycles. This would be our only form of transportation for the time being. My bike had a pad for Rush to sit on and two pegs for his feet. It’s all you can find in Central Thailand.
Saturday was a school day for everybody. Rush and Finn were at their new childcare program. Kate and I were starting to study Thai. After school, I decided to show Rush our little town of Lopburi. He got on the back of the bike and I pedaled away. As I pedaled down, Rush had swung his foot into the wheel base of the back tire. The spokes caught his shoe and pulled it with the rotation of the tire. My momentum of pedaling allowed for a full rotation of the wheel. Rush’s entire foot had been pulled through the wheel. The bars on the frame of the bike stopped his foot, but the tire continued rotating causing several of the spokes to grind over his twisted ankle.
The leader of the training program use to be an ER trauma nurse. He knew exactly how to care for Rush in those moments. After bandaging the wounds, stabilizing the ankle and calming Rush, we took him home to rest. That night we took him to the ER. X-rays told us that there wasn’t anything broken. Rush had a severe sprain, lots of deep bruising and deep/wide cuts. On Tuesday we returned the ER, his wounds were infected. What followed were 14 straight days of ER visits as the nurses needed to continually clean out the wound. Rush endured great pain during each visit, yet God gave him the most resilient spirit. He would return each day with a smile even though he knew there would pain. The nurses grew to love Rush. Despite the fact that they couldn’t understand him and he couldn’t understand them, they had a common bond. Mr. Bear. Rush’s stuffed animal. They asked for the bears name and Rush would simply respond “Bear.” Why would an animal need any other name?
Because of the bike accident, our world got a lot smaller. The sheer trauma of it all, meant that Rush had little interest in riding on the bike beyond what was necessary. I made some adjustments to make sure the accident wouldn’t happen again, but the damage was done in Rush’s mind. We took the boys to school and then back home. It was a five minute ride. That was all we did with them for the first month. There was no exploring the town with them, no showing them the local monkeys, no restaurants, nothing. Home and school, home and school. Wash, rinse, repeat. In the midst of culture stress, it was a lot for us all. Yet in the midst of it all, God took such sweet care of us.
I don’t know how Rush had the strength to go back the ER each day. God gave him the ability to trust us and the nurses.
I don’t know how we managed to navigate all those hospital visits. God gave us a community of fellow language learners and program staff that shuffled their schedule around to help us each day.
I don’t know how we learned anything in language study. God gave us the ability to compartmentalize the stress of it all and embrace our new normal.
It could have been worse. God protected Rush and kept away any lingering infection.
I still remember the day that our family finally rode beyond the school and had dinner at a restaurant. It was literally a 2km bike ride. Yet it felt like we were traveling to the other side of town. As we sat eating, I saw a joy all around the table. Our family had endured the first big hurdle to life overseas.