Remembering God’s Grace and Glory
Christine Chen—Baldwin Park, California, USA
In November 2007 a cold paralyzed half of my six-year-old daughter’s face and took away her smile and ability to blink. Through this incident, we learned that events such as these actions are not so easily managed—they need the grace of God.
A SERIOUS CONDITION
Katie caught a cold during the first few days of November, but she got over it soon and seemed to be back to her regular self. When we had guests over on the following Sunday, I was preoccupied with the preparations for dinner and didn’t really have time to pay special attention to my children, who were running around the house with their friends.
However, my husband and I both noticed that Katie looked a little different from usual. We told her, “Don’t smile with only half of your face, that’s a bad habit.” She told us that she wasn’t doing it on purpose, but we didn’t press her for an explanation. It was severe enough that our guests noticed and mentioned that Katie looked different.
It was rather late by the time everyone went home, so the kids quickly took showers and got ready for bed. When Katie was washing her hair she cried out and said that her eye hurt. My husband reminded her to close her eyes when rinsing her hair, but she said that she couldn’t. We were all so tired that we didn’t spend time trying to figure out what was wrong.
The next day was a holiday for the kids, and I started to become more concerned when Katie was getting ready to practice violin before lunch. I took a closer look at her and asked her to close her eyes. She could only close her left eye. I told her to try harder to close both of them, and she told me, “I’m trying as hard as I can!”
I realized then that her situation was really serious. My husband was at work so I didn’t want to bother him, but I wasn’t sure what I should do. I wondered why this was happening to my daughter. Even though I knew that God would take care of Katie, I still felt uneasy.
All of a sudden, I remembered that a brother had just moved to the area from the East coast, and he was a medical doctor. Although I didn’t know what he specialized in, I felt that it was better to take Katie to see him because he was a member of our church.
We went to see him that afternoon, and he told us that Katie had facial nerve paralysis, possibly caused by a viral infection from her cold the week before. He explained that the condition (also known as Bell’s palsy) wasn’t usually seen in children and that it would heal on its own. However, it was possible that it could take up to a year before she recovered—there was no way to predict.
I was worried that the paralysis would never be healed, but I had a peaceful heart when I brought Katie home because the brother didn’t give me any reason to believe that this would be the case with Katie.
Because Katie couldn’t close her right eye all the way, it got dry very quickly, and she needed to use eye drops every hour. When I brought her to school the next morning, I told the secretary that she needed to have someone help her administer the drops. The secretary said that any medication given at the school required a doctor’s signature.
I explained that they were only artificial teardrops and not medicine, but the secretary told me that without a doctor’s signature I would have to come every hour and give Katie the drops myself.
I wasn’t able to come by every hour, so I decided to see if Katie’s teacher would be willing to help us. I was a little intimidated by the teacher because of her stern appearance, but I told her, “Katie can’t close her right eye so she needs to have eye drops put in very often.”
Unexpectedly, she responded immediately, saying, “I know, this is Bell’s palsy. Give me the eye drops, I will help her.” She even comforted me by explaining that she had a cousin with this condition and that I shouldn’t worry so much. I really thank God for this teacher’s understanding and help so that the day passed by peacefully and without worries.
I expected Katie to begin recovering soon, but her condition got worse instead of better. Even though the brother said that she would heal naturally, and I knew that God would take care of her, I had little faith.
I worried a lot about Katie, and I did some research online on Bell’s palsy. It would have been better not to do this—the more I read, the more unsettled I became.
Advice from friends combined with the information I found online increased my worry and fear. I heard and read things like “early detection brings early cure,” “you should try acupuncture,” “you should try corticosteroids,” and “if you’re not careful and she doesn’t get treated soon, her face could be paralyzed for life.” I was very worried after hearing “paralyzed for life,” and I started to lose my faith and trust in God.
REMINDED OF GOD’S GRACE AND GLORY
Although my faith was low and my mood fluctuated with Katie’s condition, I gradually came to see how God was with us throughout this time.
It was difficult to endure seeing my child suffer. Because she couldn’t close her right eye, I had to put a bandage over it to prevent her cornea from drying out during sleep. Her right eyelid was completely paralyzed, her right arm and fingers were hard and swollen, and even the slightest touch to her cheek caused a lot of pain.
She had to use her hand to open her mouth when she ate, and she couldn’t speak clearly. Her face looked distorted because the skin and muscles on the right side of her face were pulled back very tightly.
But thank God, Katie never complained about any discomfort or inconvenience from Bell’s palsy. Even when her classmates repeatedly asked why she only smiled with one side of her face, she was never embarrassed or offended by them.
Since Katie had always been active, we were used to her bumping into things and getting small cuts and bruises. However, one day, she ran into something with more force and started crying from the pain. We were worried because the sound of her crying was strangely muffled, and, while the left side of her face was contorted with pain, the right side didn’t move at all.
I knew that God was watching over her, but when I saw her like this—a bubbly, lively child now in pain and physically altered—I could no longer wait patiently for her to recover. I felt that every day passed by slowly and that it would be impossible to reach the two-week mark when patients normally started to heal.
Nevertheless, we believed that God had a good reason for allowing this to happen to Katie, so the only things we could do were to pray and trust in God.
I prayed to God, “I know now that smiling and blinking are difficult if we do not have your permission. You have watched over details as insignificant as these! We never knew how to cherish these things. Please have mercy on our weaknesses.”
I thank God for listening to our prayers. It is through His love and mercy that we can thank and praise Him. We have experienced that smiling and blinking are a grace from God and that His creation is marvelous and unfathomable.
Little by little, Katie started to recover movement on the right side of her face. By the third week, she was able to move her eyelid more and more, and after one month she was almost completely healed. Now, she is back to normal. Thank God for His mercy; He did not let us worry long over her condition. Every time Katie smiles and blinks now, we are reminded of His grace and glory.
Through this experience, we have been able to reflect on the blessings and love that God has given to us. We realized that we easily overlook His grace.
As Psalm 104:10-14 tells us,
He sends the springs into the valleys;
They flow among the hills.
They give drink to every beast of the field;
The wild donkeys quench their thirst.
By them the birds of the heavens have their home;
They sing among the branches.
He waters the hills from His upper chambers;
The earth is satisfied with the fruit of Your works.
He causes the grass to grow for the cattle,
And vegetation for the service of man,
That he may bring forth food from the earth.
God is the one who created the heavens and the earth. If animals live without worries, what about us, the children of God? Will He not protect and watch over us?
We have once again experienced the wonders of God’s creation. May He have mercy on all of us and strengthen our faith.