Trapped Within is the true story of what a teenage boy was compelled to endure as the result of a surgical procedure that went wrong and what his family learned from the experience. Kelly Denham, the boy’s mother, tells the story of when God’s unfailing love met unimaginable suffering.
During the years her son was ill, Kelly Denham kept a journal of daily events and later brought the story to life as she processed her own healing. Trapped Within takes readers on a journey with many ups and downs but ultimately leads them to God’s promise that our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
Throughout the pages of Trapped Within, readers will wonder how this family endured such tragedy. There are moments of laughter and joy and moments of pain and sorrow. Faith is tested, tears are shed, and grief is shared, bringing readers full circle to the encouraging hope of God’s healing.
Excerpt from Trapped Within:
TJ’s youth pastor and kids from his youth group came back to the room to show their support. They briefly visited with him and then went to the OR waiting room for the long wait. Travis and I stayed with TJ until we were shooed out. As we were leaving the room, I turned around to take one last look at him. He was lying on the gurney making a silly face at me, so I snapped a picture. That would be the last time I ever saw my son whole.
As we walked down the hallway to the waiting room, fear suddenly overcame me. My mind ran the gamut of what ifs, and I burst into tears. Then I became upset with myself for being so dramatic and reassured myself, “They do this all the time. He’s going to be fine. Get it together.” However, unbeknownst to us, our descent into hell had already begun.
Kelly Denham’s hope for readers is that they’ll understand what God’s love truly means and that even in times of suffering and loss, His love never fails.
Psalm 34:15 & 17 “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their cry. The righteous cry out and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles.”
It was a Thursday, and TJ and I had had a busy day of therapy in the morning and school in the afternoon. Because TJ started his senior year second semester, the school didn’t have a nurse employed for him, so they asked me to be his nurse. I was thrilled TJ was going back to school to finish his senior year and would be around young people again, so I eagerly accepted. Even though it meant that I was extremely busy running him from one thing to the next, I didn’t mind. It was better than him sitting alone in front of the TV all day.
After writing poems and learning about America’s government, we returned home from school, and I parked him in his favorite La-Z-Boy chair so he could play Xbox. He loved his Xbox. He played it all the time, but with hands and arms that had a mind of their own, I don’t know that he ever really accomplished much. Most times when he was playing, I found him with his arms over his head, the controller upside down, and the character on the TV running around and around in circles. Even so, it didn’t seem to bother him, and he still kept trying.
After getting him settled in, it was late in the afternoon when I looked at the time. 3:30 pm. Aiden would be getting off the bus in a half an hour. Aiden is our grandson we adopted as a baby. He calls us Nana and Papa. He was in kindergarten at the time, and it was West Des Moines’ policy that kindergartners had to be picked up at the bus stop by an adult.
After attempting to do a little housework before picking Aiden up, I heard TJ’s call button sound. I strolled into his room to see what he needed and found that he had had an accident and was very upset. I lifted him up, walked him to the bathroom, and began cleaning the mess and doing laundry. I was so focused on my chores that I lost track of time until I heard the sound of my phone ringing. I halted what I was doing and looked at my phone. It was the West Des Moines School Bus. I quickly glanced at the clock and saw that it was 4:10 pm. I immediately knew why they were calling — I had forgotten to pick Aiden up from the bus. Panic set in, and I felt my stomach getting sick.
“Hello?” I answered.
“This is Lisa from the West Des Moines School Bus. There was no one to pick Aiden up from the bus stop today so the driver kept him on the bus. Are you home now?”
I could feel my stomach twisting and turning inside of me. All I could think of was Aiden sitting on the bus, scared with tears running down his cheeks because his nana had forgotten him.
During TJ’s initial hospitalization, while TJ and I were in Rochester and Papa was working nights, Aiden was shuffled around from house to house for months. He was too young to understand what was happening and sometimes begged his papa not to leave him.
During that time, my hope was that after we came home, things would get better for Aiden and we would achieve some type of normalcy. But things hadn’t gotten better. Caring for TJ still took up most of our time, and Aiden was left with the scraps.
We were failing. We were juggling more balls than we could handle, and some balls were dropping. I knew deep down that it wasn’t our fault, that it was out of our control and we were doing the best we could, but I still felt incredibly guilty and worried that Aiden was going to pay the price.
“Yes, I’m home. I’m sorry. My other son is disabled, and I was in the bathroom with him and couldn’t get to the bus stop. Is Aiden okay?”
“Yes, he’s fine. It’s no problem. The driver will keep him until the end of the route and then will drop him back off at his stop. I will let you know when he is on his way back.”
“Thank you so much. I will be there,” I said and hung up the phone.
I quickly went back to cleaning TJ up and began a conversation with the Lord expressing my frustration with our current situation.
“I don’t understand, Lord. Why would You give us this little boy when You knew TJ was going to get sick and we wouldn’t be able to handle all of this? This isn’t fair to Aiden. Please do something.”
But nothing changed. We were still juggling too many balls, and Aiden was still getting the scraps, but we kept pressing on, trusting in the Lord and His promises, and doing the best we could.
One day several months later, I noticed that Aiden was watching something on YouTube. Becoming concerned about what was entering his little mind, I asked him what he was watching.
“Bible stories,” he answered.
After studying what was on the screen, I noticed they weren’t just children’s Bible stories like Veggie Tales or cartoons. They were adult Bible stories, like the Ten Commandments.
“Hmmmmmm…..that’s a bit unusual,” I thought. “What kid wants to watch adult Bible stories?”
I was intrigued and somewhat skeptical, so I sat down with him to find out more.
During our conversation, I learned that he had been searching YouTube for Bible stories and had watched almost every one of them and was trying to find more. He clearly was fascinated by them. I was astounded and could hardly believe it. I thought back to when I was a kid and remembered how much I disliked those movies. I thought those movies were boring and that the people on them were strange and dressed and talked funny.
After telling a friend a few months later about his incredible love of Bible stories, she commended me on our great parenting, and I burst out laughing. I knew it had nothing to do with us. We had been so focused on taking care of TJ and searching for answers that would improve his life that we hadn’t been spending quality time with Aiden and teaching him God’s Word like we should have been. The honest truth was we were failing him. But God wasn’t. God was instilling a love for His Word in Aiden’s little heart, and without us even knowing, He was picking up the balls we were dropping.
Aiden is now 9 years old and entering fourth grade, and he gets more individual attention from Nana and Papa now than he sometimes wants. He still loves Bible stories, and one day after his amazing NBA career is over, he wants to be a pastor. This past year we enrolled him in a Christian school after TJ died, and at conferences this year, one of the first things out of Mrs. Stuart’s mouth was, “He is enamored with Bible stories!” At the time she knew nothing about his past or how much sharing that tidbit of information would encourage me. What a blessing that was to me.
What about you? Do you sometimes feel like you have too many balls in the air? Do you feel that you just can’t keep it all together and do everything well? During my time of ball juggling, I learned that God hears us and is always with us. He strengthens us and upholds us (Isaiah 41:10). He sets our feet on solid ground and steadies us as we walk along (Psalm 40:2). He makes a way when there seems to be no way. Although we may fail, He never does.
Whatever difficulty you are going through, you are never safer than when your trust is in the Lord. He loves you. He will hear you and will deliver you from all your troubles.