The Duggar family, stars of the TLC series “19 Kids and Counting,” now number 21 and somehow manage to make it work simply and peacefully on a daily basis. Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar have written their second book, “A Love That Multiplies.” In this excerpt they talk about the moment when Michelle was rushed to the hospital for what they believed were kidney stones, but which turned out to be premature labor with Josie.
Chapter 3 - A surprising test begins
Our roller-coaster year rolled along. January’s ice storm and Grandpa Duggar’s death in mid-February had gotten 2009 off to a rocky start, but Michelle’s positive pregnancy test in August and Mackynzie’s birth in October lifted our spirits and filled our hearts with joy. In our big, active family, it seems there’s a major or minor crisis about every thirty minutes, but most of 2009’s crises seemed to get resolved according to our most frequent advice: wait a minute; it’ll pass.
Then came Thanksgiving, when we welcomed family members from near and far to join us. The house was full of loved ones sharing happy sounds, delicious aromas, and a rich sense of thankfulness and contentedness.
And with Thanksgiving came ... a stomach virus. Or was it the flu? Something was sweeping through the family, infecting one child after another. Fearful that we were all coming down with the H1N1 virus — swine flu — which was causing such concern around the country at that time, we took the first couple of young patients to the doctor. Tests showed it wasn’t swine flu but some other kind of virus.
The illness progressed through the whole family, knocking each one of us out of commission for about three days each. When I (Michelle) looked at five-year-old Jackson’s throat and saw white spots, I nearly panicked. “We’ve got strep!” I told Jim Bob.
Back to the doctor we went, taking not only Jackson but also eleven-month-old Jordyn, who was showing symptoms of sore throat and fever. Again the tests came back negative for what we feared most. The doctor said the problem was the Coxsackie virus rather than streptococcus. The potential complications weren’t as severe, but many of the symptoms were the same.
By the time the virus had run its course through the Duggar household, fifteen of the seventeen children living at home had been sick, as well as Jim Bob and me. We were wiped out! A friend asked how we were holding up, and I told her, “I don’t know whether to say our nights are long or short. We’re not getting a lot of sleep at our house!”
I didn’t keep track of how many boxes of tissues and Popsicles we went through, but it had to be dozens. The last patient recovered just as everything was gearing up for Christmas — and a host of other activities.
The biggest thing on our calendar was an up-coming Christian mission trip that would take ten of our older children and me (Jim Bob) to El Salvador. We’d made similar trips to that area of El Salvador in the past, but this year a hurricane, along with its aftermath of mud slides and rock slides, had destroyed thousands of the crude shacks occupied by families in the poor villages we would be visiting. We were going to help rebuild homes; plus, with our friend Todd Hertzberg and his family, we had committed to bringing wrapped gifts in our checked luggage for the 250 children who had already been invited to a Christmas party at one of the other poor communities.
A few days before we were scheduled to leave, I gathered a half dozen of the middle Duggar children who would be going on the trip and headed to a local discount store to meet the Hertzbergs and do some shopping. It was a joy to see our children diligently searching for special gifts for the El Salvadoran children, piling several shopping carts high. Following our assigned list, they picked out, for example, eighteen gifts for ten-year-old boys and twelve gifts for nine-year-old girls. Then we went to the Samaritan Thrift Store and picked up hundreds of clothing items that were being donated. The children stuffed the clothes in big, military-style duffle bags to take to El Salvador.
The children also were preparing for musical Christmas recitals and programs, we were meeting with out-of-town editors about starting this book, and the Australian film crew was scheduled to spend the first weekend in December with us, shooting video to broadcast in early 2010 on the popular TV newsmagazine Sunday Night. There were still homeschool lessons to be taught, more than twenty people to feed (film crews and other visitors in our home at mealtime are always invited to join us), and lots of tender hearts and minds needing attention.
We managed to slip out on the evening of December 3 for a double-date dinner with some friends, heading to one of our favorite casual restaurants that serves the most delicious sweet potato fries. Oh, they were good!
And a few hours later, oh, how I (Michelle) regretted eating them! I had indigestion. The kidney stones that have bothered me on and off for years often flare up when I get dehydrated, and when back pain joined my indigestion, I assumed that’s what was happening. Tossing and turning and walking the floor throughout the night, I knew that eating those greasy sweet-potato fries had been a mistake.
That Friday morning, December 4, we had to get up earlier than usual because the Australian team was scheduled to arrive in time for breakfast at eight thirty. They showed up as planned. We all gathered around the long dining table, pleased to get acquainted with these new friends who’d come so far to meet us. Afterward we gave the crew a tour of the house, settled in for some quick interviews, and then went about our normal day (if any day is ever normal in the Duggar household!) while they did their filming.
I (Michelle) had hoped that as time went by the indigestion and kidney-stone discomfort would ease, but instead it worsened. I’m constantly aware that my mood and disposition set the tone for our home, so my goal is always to maintain a pleasant, optimistic demeanor, knowing that all those little eyes are watching me. But the back pain seemed to increase steadily, coming in waves; whenever it intensified, I slipped away to our bedroom to curl up on the bed. Then I tried lying back on my recliner, seeking a position that would ease my misery. Meanwhile, Jim Bob and the older children covered for me, leading the family through its daily schedule and helping the film crew with whatever it needed.
By that evening the pain exceeded what I was able to bear. After Jim Bob talked to the doctor on the phone and explained my symptoms, she recommended we come to Mercy Hospital in Rogers. We quickly headed out.
I could never have imagined that it would be nearly two weeks before I would see our family again — or that seven months would pass before I was home again.
From "A Love That Multiplies" by Michelle & Jim Bob Duggar. Copyright © 2011
Reprinted by permission of Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster.