Maybe I should just pretend I haven’t had this long absence and start talking about peace again. But to be honest, you deserve better than that.
You’ve allowed me to come into your homes and share my perspectives on what it takes to find peace in our time. So now is no time to start keeping things to myself.
In 2013 I almost died. I came as close to the edge as one human being can come without passing through the veil on our return home. It marked the climax of escalating health issues that had plagued me for the previous three years.
A Medical Mess
Without boring you with the gory details, a long, undiagnosed bout with gall stones led to pancreatitis and a trip to the hospital. A week into my stay, my vitals fell off the charts and I coded for the first time.
Within a few days, it happened again. And over the coming weeks, again and again. My time was nearly over, or so it seemed.
Sepsis had poisoned my blood, and I was barely hanging on. My body’s organs were failing fast. One doctor wanted dialysis. Another put me on a ventilator. Others were called in for my lungs which had filled with fluid, a suspected brain seizure and heart failure. And this was on top of the gallstones and the pancreatic pseudocysts they caused that filled my innards with poison.
Things got so bad they induced a coma to keep me from pulling out the vent tube. In fact, my plunges toward death were so frequent one of nurses taped a syringe of Atropine to the monitors, the drug of choice to get my heart beating again.
I lived on that edge for months. No one knew if I was coming or going. Then again, I didn’t, either. I found out later, doctors gave me a 10% chance of survival — in what condition, nobody knew.
As you can tell, I’m still here. You can’t get rid of me that easily.
Miracles do happen
The real story, though, isn’t one of sickness. It is about surviving and thriving despite the hand life deals us — and for the miracles, large and small, that make it possible.
Miracle man. That’s what a hospital staffer told Laura. And that the hospital needed a success story for such a complicated case. Maybe that was because the guys on either side of me weren’t so lucky.
Wrapped up in that miracle were lots of smaller ones, each essential to my recovery. Like when Laura refused to allow dialysis, and demanded another alternative. Or the nurse who just happened to be in my room on the second code blue. Or the infection that miraculously stopped when they took me off antibiotics when I reached the end of the allowable treatment period before I became resistant to the wonder drugs that had kept me alive.
But the real miracle is my family, both immediate and extended. I can’t tell you how much it meant to me then and now. Their love brought me back and kept me here.
I put them through so much. It hurts just to think of the pain I caused.
Laura was a superwoman. With our sons, they set a daily vigil so that I was never left alone. Because she knew that if she had, I would surely have died. Exhausted but unable to give up, she fought battle after battle to keep our family going and doctors focused on the goal at hand.
I can’t tell you how much it meant to have them there. She’d sing to me, and would make me join her in prayers when I finally got some wits about me. That wasn’t easy either. I could only lip synch the prayers with her because I couldn’t talk. Imagine not being able to speak for months on end!
Four and one-half months later, they finally let me out. And then the fun began. Confined to a hospital bed at home for three months, I had to learn to walk and talk and even eat again. My muscles had wasted, and I dropped 65 pounds. My arms and legs were just bony appendages held together by muscles that looked like piano wires.
Again, she was there for me. With the help of our son John (a personal trainer, he took charge of my therapy, not to mention taking the burden off her at home), together they went to work to get me better. More tired than ever, yet still trudging forward moment by moment.
Together they nursed me back to health and bandaged the wounds caused by staff before my discharge. More importantly, they wouldn’t allow me the luxury of a negative thought. And believe me, it was easy to have them in the condition I was in.
Of course, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. My trache tube broke in August, and upon readmission they discovered I now had MRSA. Not to mention pooling of blood in my abdomen. The fun just kept on coming.
But with a lot of prayers, insertion of a drain tube and some more heavy-duty antibiotics, we dodged another bullet.
Dealing with the aftermath
I’m still disabled and unable to work. But I’m walking again. The hole left in my throat from my tracheotomy was closed a couple weeks ago.
You’re hearing all this not because I want sympathy or to get things off my chest. Truly, if it were up to me, I’d put it all behind and never look back.
But there are so many things we have to share about what we learned over the last year that I may never have time to talk about peace again.
But eventually I will. I’m slowly getting back on that horse. And even while multiple surgeries and extensive treatment may lie ahead (I’ve still got the gall bladder; it’s still filled with stones), I trust that will happen.
In the meantime, I can honestly say our lives together are better than ever, notwithstanding the many issues set in motion by my illness.
Almost 35 years ago I married an angel. I’m just glad I didn’t have to go to Heaven to find out.
God has blessed me, indeed.