Just sixteen months ago… in early December of 2006, just a little over a week after my family and I enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving of love, laughter and lots of good southern style food, I was to experience a profound personal miracle. My family and I were thankful for the many blessings in our life and looked forward to decorating the house (both inside and out) as we always did every Christmas. While we were joyfully distracted with our favorite time of the year; when all of the delights of the holiday season surround you, an unexpected visitor called on our family.
The year had been a tough one both physically and emotionally, with Mom’s arrival just a little over a fourteen months before. I had taken on the responsibility of being her primary caregiver after an accident in which she was struck by a car and left with a fractured hip. What other decision was there to make? I was her only child, her daughter. I did what any daughter would do. I brought Mom home to live with us.
By this time, our lives had returned to the norm, somewhat and the future looked a little brighter. We had settled in once again. As with most things, I always took life and its challenges as they came. I was the eternal optimist. I believed that all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose (see Romans 8:28). Eventually, everything would settle down. “Life” often seemed to come at me in bunches, but I dealt with it moment by moment and left the things out of my control in God’s hands. I trusted Him with my life and the life of my family. I had been raised to live that way.
Pain, for me, has to be severe before I begin to complain. This pain was not any different. Growing up in the fifties, as an asthmatic, I learned to cope with pain at an early age. I endured years of allergy tests and injections. There were weeks that I struggled; just to breathe. As a result, I can block most pain out of my mind, but this time the pain was agonizing! It was much worse than childbirth and I experienced that three times naturally! Still, several days went by before I finally said to my husband, Dale, “Please take me to the emergency room. I am really hurting and I think something is wrong with me.”
Well, the trip to the hospital revealed two surprisingly serious medical issues. Two health issues, as I would learn later, I would battle daily for the rest of my life. I returned home with the diagnosis of Type II Diabetes (a total shock at the time, of course) and a stone in my left kidney. The doctors in ER prescribed me with hydrocodone for pain, metformin for my diabetes and an antibiotic for the infection (that they could not determine the origin of, for some reason). I was instructed to drink plenty of fluids and remain active; which would help me pass the stone. With those instructions, they sent me home.
I found it very helpful to have my daughter, who also suffers from diabetes, around to provide information. She became my source of knowledge about the disease and generally helpful around the house. Without her, I didn’t have a clue about diet, medication, blood sugar, etc. I was somewhat surprised that at no time did anyone in the hospital come and talk to me. I remain baffled by that.
The first twenty-four hours or so, I started to feel better. Mostly due to the fact I was not feeling much pain. I remember sitting on the living room sofa and watching a Dallas Cowboy football game with my husband that Sunday and eating a meal in the afternoon. What happened after that is now a blur. The pain medication served its purpose.
Only bits and pieces can I remember of the next several hours: things like no appetite, unable to keep food down, blood in my urine, pain in my back and lower left side (that seemed to be getting much worse). I have this dim memory of my Mom coming in to check on me, in the wee hours of the morning. She washed my face gently with a cool cloth, anointed my forehead with oil (see James: 5:14) and then she prayed for me. She asked me to call out for the Lord and I did, in a very weak voice, but nonetheless, I called out His name in prayer, “Jesus, help me.”
Believing the intense pain was just the stone passing and I expected to get better, but then…
The following morning, when blood started to flow steadily from my nose and there were several clots of blood in my mouth; my daughter became really frightened and called her Dad. My husband had returned to work the previous day and my daughter had come over to stay with me and her grandmother, but now, it looked, as if I taken a turn for the worse.
It was a Tuesday, in early December that my daughter, Crystal first called her dad to let him know we were on our way back to the hospital. She was concerned, but she remained calm. She paged him and waited for his call. I heard her say, when she picked up the phone, “Daddy, Mama is bleeding from the nose. I cannot get her to respond to me! She has blood all in her mouth too! I am taking her to the hospital right now! Cass is here with Grandma. I’ll meet you there.”
So weak was I by then; that she had to basically carry me to the SUV. My nose dripped blood all the way down the hall and out the front door. She helped me into the back seat and then gently had me lie down. I vaguely remember saying to her, “I’m sorry. I’m bleeding on the carpet.”
My daughter, even now, cannot believe that I was concerned with getting a blood stain on the carpet of our family SUV. She will also be the first to tell you how shocked she was to find her dad waiting in the parking lot of the hospital. Who knows how fast he drove from a good twenty miles away? He had twice has far to drive as we did, but he beat us there!
It was obvious to the nurses on duty in the emergency room that I was in very bad shape. So, they wheeled me in quickly. Then, suddenly, everyone was running around, not in a panic, but in a hurried mode, hooking me up to the I.V. and taking blood and preparing me for X-rays. The nurses kept coming in and out of the small room with great frequently, but I had not yet seen a doctor. I was made comfortable. I was in and out, watching the confusion. I sensed their desperation, but I felt no fear. I went to the hospital believing no matter what was wrong with me, that the doctors and nurses would take care of me and that God would do the rest. I had come this far by faith. I would go home in time to enjoy Christmas with my loved ones…just like always.
Somewhere I lost track of my daughter, but my husband was right there at my side, where he had been for thirty-three years. Time passed. Back and forth I went between the small room and being wheeled down for what seemed to be dozens of X-rays a CT scans. I suppose during this time, my daughter was making phone calls to her brother, our oldest son, Chip and other family members, requesting prayer. I do not know. I don’t remember. I vaguely recall the loud voice of a doctor who seemed to appear out of nowhere. At no time, did I consider that I might be dying from the infection in my left kidney.
Truth is, as I would later learn, I should have never left the hospital the first time. The infection that the emergency room doctors could not locate the week before, was already in my left kidney. I was in serious trouble and yet, I felt this calm assurance.
Suddenly, I hear this booming male voice. “What the hell is the matter with you people? Look at her left kidney! Can’t you see, it is twice the normal size,” he yelled out at the doctors and nurses, while looking at the most CT scan. The doctor took over from that moment on. He hollered and screamed at the ER staff telling them what I needed (like platelets). My body was doing all it could to fight the infection. I remember nothing else after that.
About forty-eight hours later, I came to in a hospital bed. I was in the intensive care unit. Both arms had tubes running from them: I had single IV in my left arm and a pickline (another IV that can feed several medications at one time) in my right arm. An oxygen mask on my face, made it hard to hear. I felt so very weak and I had no idea what had happened to me. My last memory was the voice of the doctor who came in yelling and then I drifted away…
Just outside my door, I could just make out the small Christmas decorations around the nurse’s station, which was directly across from my room. My sight was very blurry, at first. Everything seemed to move in slow motion. Somehow, I knew I had come so very close to losing my life. I felt it. It wasn’t long before I noticed the odd way the nurses and even the doctors looked at me, whenever they walked in the room. On a few occasions, some of the nurses addressed me as “the miracle lady”.
The next day, when I felt clear enough to start communicating, my family and then the doctors began to share information about the journey I had been on with them in the last forty-eight hours … and the least of it was pneumonia in my left lung. How seriously ill had I been? First of all, the stone (which was too large to pass) lodged and caused a (urinary obstruction) and the obstruction resulted in these complications: a urinary tract infection that spread to the kidney and resulted in fever, chills, loss of appetite. If a UTI accompanies the urinary obstruction, pyelonephritis or urosepsis can occur. If stones are bilateral, they can cause renal scarring and damage, resulting in acute or chronic renal failure. A few more hours and my life would have been over.
Later my husband would tell me what happened, while he and our three children were in the waiting room. The surgeon/urologist came to talk to him and handed papers to my husband. He didn’t mix words and came right to the point, “This is an advance directive and you must make a decision and you must make it right now. Your wife is very ill. In order to save her life, I must go in an insert a stent to relieve the pressure on her kidney, but in doing so, there is a high risk of releasing the infection into her body and she will die, but if I do not do the surgery, right now, she is going to die anyway. She will need to be put on life support. Do you understand?"
My husband Dale had to make a difficult decision quickly and he knew what my choice would have been, but our three children were standing right behind him, afraid and in some shock at what they were hearing. “How were they feeling at this moment,” he thought to himself?
What my husband did next took great faith and tremendous courage. He turned to the doctor and said, “Give me the papers I need to sign. You will not put my wife on life support. Do you understand? She is a fighter and she will come through this.”
The surgeon/urologist continued to argue his medical opinion and explained that my chances were not very good without me being on life support…The kidney was in bad shape, full of infection and under tremendous pressure. In his previous ten cases, over twenty years, none of his patients with the same type of complications survived and my only chance was to be put on life support, but it seems that God had other plans for me.
My family, one by one, shared their experience of watching my urologist come back from the surgery and say them, just twenty days before Christmas, “She’s breathing on her own. I don’t know how, but she is. When I tried to put the tube in, she fought and she fought hard. I’ve never seen anything like it. No patient of mine has ever survived this. She’s a miracle.”
I praise the Lord for sparing my life. I do not know, even now, why or for what purpose He saved me from death, but I do know, deep in my soul, He still has other plans for me. Perhaps sharing my miracle with you is part of His plan too. Each day, I continue to gain more and strength. I make small steps of progress. So, I thank Him and I wait…
AMP Romans 8:28: We are assured and know that [[God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.