My Four-Year-Old Son Swallowed a Quarter

When God blessed us with three sons, I think He forgot to equip us with the nerves or patience we needed to actually be their parents. But in His own timing, He has gently reminded us to trust Him for those needs. In this case, we desperately needed Him.

Earlier this week, as my wife was getting dinner ready, my four-year-old son, Wyatt, began choking. Almost immediately his gag reflex caused him to vomit, sending her into a panic. When I heard the screams, I came running to find most awful look on my son’s face. He was scared and helpless. In the frantic moments that followed, my wife and I were somewhat comforted by the fact that he began crying, which meant that he was breathing.

I anxiously grabbed my son and asked him, “What did you swallow, buddy?”

Through his hysteria, I managed to understand, “A coin.”

When the firemen and paramedics arrived, they attempted to calm my wife. She was eight-months pregnant and they didn’t want the stress of the situation to send her into labor. They reminded us that as long as he was breathing and drinking liquids, he would be ok. It appeared that the coin had passed through his esophagus and into his stomach. Eventually, it would work its way out. But minutes after they left, we knew something wasn’t right. Wyatt wasn’t acting like himself and continued to complain of pain in his throat. I quickly grabbed three coins—a dime, a nickel, and a quarter—and held them in my hand.

“Which one was it, Wyatt—which coin did you swallow?”

As he pointed to the quarter, I looked at my wife in fear. Another round of panic ensued as we rushed to get him into the car. Wyatt’s identical twin, Greyson, and his older brother, Matthew, were now hysterical, scared for their brother as reality set in. At one point, I was holding Wyatt in my arms, getting ready to take him to the car, and his hand was outstretched toward his older brother, Matthew, who was standing down the hall. Matthew’s arm was outstretched as well and he cried out, “I love you, Wyatt.”

Wyatt tearfully replied, “I love you, Matthew.”

My heart was breaking. And in that moment, the Enemy was close at hand, like a lion waiting to attack, whispering fear-filled lies that my son’s life was in danger.

As soon as we saw the x-ray, two things were clear. It was a quarter, and it was lodged in my son’s throat. Bless the young technician’s heart. The image disturbed him so much that he could hardly get out the words to calm me when I looked at what I saw on the screen. In hindsight, it’s an absolute miracle that the quarter didn’t go down his trachea.


Wyatt’s x-ray clearly shows the quarter lodged in his upper throat

After a couple of hours waiting at our regional hospital emergency room, it was determined that a pediatric specialist would need to perform the procedure to remove the quarter. That pediatric specialist was located at Chapel Hill Children’s Hospital more than two hours away.

That determination was made at 10pm on Monday night.

The quarter was finally removed from Wyatt’s throat at 4pm on Tuesday afternoon, eighteen hours later.


Here’s the quarter

During those eighteen hours, I learned how to trust God in a way that rivaled my own cancer scare in 2014. I don’t share that to be sensational, but these trials have been transformational. It’s odd, but pain has been the greatest teacher in my life. Just like a diamond is formed under pressure, these experiences have produced profound truths and incredible perspective that have become invaluable gems. It’s my hope to share them with you so that they might be of some comfort during your own seasons of struggle.

Life in the Waiting

In our modern world of digital accessibility, waiting has become terribly inconvenient. When information is available at the push of a button. no one has time to wait. That why we get pissed off when traffic is bad, when we lose our data signal, or when we have to stand in line at the DMV. But sometimes the waiting becomes more serious, like during a diagnosis or a tragic situation like we experienced. In those moments, waiting seems to rip your heart out.

And as I try to put a finger on why, I think it’s because in the waiting, the voice of the enemy is loud and his lies speak louder than the truth. It’s in those moments of waiting when we allow fear, worry, and anxiety to crush our spirit and rob us of joy. As a result we’re tempted to curse God and, even worse, question our faith.

That’s exactly what the enemy wants—to keep us chained to doubt, suffocated by our circumstances. But those eighteen hours taught me that waiting provides us our greatest opportunity to trust God.

As I sat in the hospital room, watching my son toss and turn uncomfortably in his bed, I felt the real tension of waiting. All around me, in the busiest hospital in North Carolina, I saw thousands of people who were waiting as well. There were student residents waiting to become doctors, doctors waiting to retire, patients waiting on their treatments, mothers waiting to give birth, families waiting on their loved ones. Everyone was waiting on something.

Curiously, waiting causes us to look to the past. In those moments of pause, we ask ourselves, “What could I have done that would have made this different?” But then our emotions quickly deceive us and we begin worrying about the future as well. Those common fearful words come to mind, “What if?” And as we see-saw back and forth between these regrets and fears, it strips us of the moment.

But this most recent episode has taught me that this type of waffling is not only damaging, it’s ineffective. In fact, the only thing it is effective at is making us feel alone. I guess it takes you actually experiencing this type of waiting firsthand to understand that living in the regrets of the past or in the worries of the future will always rob you of the joy of the present.

So if you find yourself in a season of waiting, I invite you to choose to be presentIn those eighteen hours, my faith was brought to life by the simple picture of God’s assurance that I wasn’t alone. In the waiting, God reminded me that He joined us in our waiting. That’s the beautiful picture of Christmas—God with us.

Instead of praising God with one hand raised and clinging on to everything else with a clinched fist, maybe every waiting room is simply an opportunity to open both palms and truly trust Him.

And if we’re willing, He will meet us there.



Matt Ham is the co-founder of a faith development organization called YouPrint. To learn more visit,

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  • Glad this turned out well Matt – Most think Advent is about preparing us for Christmas and too some degree it is. Advent is really about us waiting for Christ’s return. But I also have to be honest. i don’t like waiting. I want it now.

    • Touch and go for a bit, Jon. I love the season of Advent–a mindset of waiting with patient endurance. It is so hard though. I hope you have a Merry Christmas, brother. Thanks for your encouragement.

  • Vicky Lightner Cox

    This is a great reminder to be present in the waiting and experience God there. Often during the holidays I just want to get through them because it’s so rough on my daughters. But even this morning I felt God call me to experience Him in the valleys. So thanks Matt, I will.

    • Vicky, I pray that He would meet you there. I have faith that He will. Finish 2015 well.

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  • I have been there, an ER trip with my child, fear around every corner, and Grace to meet me there (
    Merry Christmas Matt.

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  • Matt, this is such a powerful and beautiful post – wow. So glad he is OK and that you were able to share these lessons with us. I’m not good with waiting either….

    • Thanks so much, Skip. Happy New Year to you. It was a great lesson to close 2015.