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John White's Baby

Notes & Transcripts

John White tells of this very thing in a story about his son Scott. He says that when his son Scott was just learning to walk, he fell on a cement driveway and split the area below his chin so deeply that the floor of his mouth was exposed. Hospitals and doctors were 250 kilometers away over tortuous mountain roads. John had no surgical instruments handy. A quick catalog of his resources turned up a less-than-impressive array of one darning needle, coarse thread, one pair of rather blunt scissors, and a pair of eyebrow tweezers. Infection in children develops rapidly and infection in the floor of the mouth can have fatal complications. They also had a little sulfonamide powder. There was no local anesthetic. Rightly or wrongly, John says, he decided to trim and stitch the wound with what we had.

He sterilized "the instruments." He says he could not help but look at the affair from Scott's point of view. He did his best to explain, but what can a one-year-old understand? He placed one year old Scott on the dining room table and suffering descended on him. Cruel adults seized his limbs and his head so that movement was impossible. Then the father he had trusted became a fearful monster inflicting unbelievable pain on him. John said he wished he could have explained what was going on to his son, but the truth is an infection could have killed him. Inflicting terrible pain on his son was the only way to possibly save his life.

If it is possible for a one-year-old to think such thoughts, I’m sure his son was saying just what you and I may say in the middle of our suffering, “If you really were my dad and you loved me, you wouldn’t hurt me.”

I’m sure he was saying just what we say in our suffering, “If you really cared about me, you’d find another way to do this.”

I’m sure he was saying, “If you have to hurt me so badly, at least explain to me what you’re doing.” But how could John explain infection to a one-year-old?

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