THROUGH THE VALLEY
February 17th of this year was indeed a day I will not soon forget. On that cold afternoon I admitted the love of my life into our local hospital to undergo a simple gall bladder removal. She had five previous surgeries in her life without any complications, so our MD, the surgeon, the anesthesiologist and I had every good reason to believe this too would be a fairly routine procedure.
About 20 minutes into the action, the visibly shaken surgeon came out to speak with me and our middle daughter. He said that they had encountered a complication establishing an airway for my wife, and an emergency tracheoscomy had to be done to keep her breathing and preserve her life. Now, this surgeon was an experienced, metropolitan trauma surgeon who had only recently relocated to our small town, yet he apologetically and repeatedly kept using the phrases “it had to be done” and “at least she’s alive”. Due to this difficult airway complication, the gall bladder surgery wasn’t performed at that time; all concentration was instead diverted to saving her life and hastening flow of precious oxygen to her lungs before she suffered any possible damage to her brain.
What I felt at that time was a fear beyond anything I’ve ever known (including my 20 years as a street cop). The surgeon’s shaken demeanor told me that he was very worried about the ultimate outcome of this incident, and when I queried him concerning chances of brain damage to my Debbie, he could only reply that it was “too soon to tell for sure”. As he continued to speak, I squeezed my poor daughter Lisa’s hand so tightly that (in retrospect), I must have certainly hurt her fingers, and then I started to choke on the bitterness of my own tears.
After first taking the situation to God in prayer, I next telephoned each of our other five daughters to inform them of the problem. The four who reside in our town immediately rushed to my side at the hospital, and our eldest daughter (herself an RN), traveled from some 50 miles away to join us in prayerful vigil outside of the I.C.C.U. where Debbie’s room was being prepared for her arrival.
After what seemed an eternity, my dear wife of 23 years was at long last rolled up the hallway on a surgical gurney. Several green-clad figures somberly attended at her side, and my heart pounded like a jack hammer as they drew near. I moved to her side and immediately grasped her hand. Her sweet face was etched with pain, and her delicate skin was ashen and clammy. My heart sunk as I saw the obtrusive trach protruding from her throat, her precious blood spilled around it’s base, yet I wasted no time silently thanking God that she was indeed alive. Then, she blessedly opened her beautiful blue eyes, smiling at me in loving recognition, and I thanked God a second time for sparing her cognition and mental awareness.
You would have to meet my Debbie to truly comprehend the outstanding reflection of godliness always evident through her personality. From the moment she first checked into the hospital, people there were drawn to her warmth and great generosity of spirit. She is loving to all people (just like her sainted mother was) and refuses to ever harbor ill will toward another, no matter what the circumstances. My Deb makes friends from the very point of introduction, and it is clear that she seeks out the good in each individual she meets.
Shortly after she was placed in her room, the doctors, operating staff and entire surgical team came in mass to visit with her and check on her situation. They were all seriously worried and deeply concerned for her well-being. Debbie immediately offered reassurance to the team as she smiled at them and gave a “thumbs up”. As for me, I was a “basket case”. The very thought that I came so close to losing my life’s greatest treasure left me weak and an emotional wreck. I shook like a leaf and couldn’t hold my silent tears, __ what would I ever do without her? Had it not have been for my trust in God and the comforting presence of our six wonderful daughters, I know that I would not have held together through the strain of her close brush with death.
Debbie spent the next seven days in the hospital I.C.C.U. receiving meticulous round-the-clock care and a constant barrage of visitors, cards and flowers. Since the hospital was only a few blocks from our home, I spent a great deal of my days and many nights in her room and by her side. I saw how the doctors, nurses and staff were endeared to my Debbie, how they would spend their free time in her room observing as she used hand gestures and written notes to communicate with them. One RN spent hours in Deb’s room just visiting. Debbie listened to that nurse speak in length about her life and difficulties she was experiencing. Then she told that nurse about the strength and comfort she had found through her relationship with Jesus Christ. Debbie prayed with and for her, and I believe that nurse will now experience a strength and freedom she had never before known.
At about three O’clock one morning I left Debbie’s room to make a nocturnal visit to the nearest facility just outside of the darkened I.C.C.U. waiting area. When I came out of the restroom, in the dark where no one could see me, I observed a male nurse walk to the nurses station and begin speaking with others there. I overheard him say: “You know,_ that Debbie Van Scoy is just the sweetest person I have ever met!” The others all agreed with him and began to talk amongst themselves about her warmth, friendliness and her love for Jesus. One female nurse said, “She’s what I think a Christian should be.”
As the days drug by, my Debbie’s condition did not seem to improve. Her constant coughing dislodged the trach and it began to come out, placing her in danger of a collapsed airway. Our surgeon was unavailable, so another had to be summoned from a neighboring community to replace the trach. Another surgical procedure, __ (the third) in a eight days, and with every event, my Debbie seemed to be losing ground. I thought back to 1999 when together we helplessly watched her wonderful, vibrant mother slip away to cancer, __ eight short weeks from diagnosis to death, and for me it was a grim reminder of how death can subtly cast it’s snare almost without notice, and steal the treasure of life. As my Debbie showed no improvement, I felt myself falling deeper and deeper into depression. I grew angry with God, because He seemed distant, and I was so powerless to help my dear wife.
By the ninth day it was becoming obvious that Debbie was making no progress in our small town hospital, and greatly due to the adamant insistence of our eldest daughter (Laura the RN), Debbie was transferred some fifty miles away to one of the leading medical centers in the Midwest. After the first day at that more advanced facility, her condition began to show improvement and she was moved out of their I.C.C.U. into a regular hospital room. She at last seemed to be looking healthier and tiny signs of improvement became visible.
It was determined that due to the dire urgency of the surgery situation of February 17th, the emergency tracheoscomy caused tissue damage in Debbie’s airway, forming a large hemotoma (swollen bruise) and bulging scar tissue. These developments blocked her from exhaling without use of the trach. It was a matter of waiting for the swollen tissue and hemotoma to shrink, before the trach could ever be safely removed. After four days in the U.N.M.C. Medical Center Hospital, Deb was released to go home and recuperate there as we awaited necessary reduction in her swelling.
It’s now been 73 days since I nearly lost the love of my life. She recuperates at home, mostly tethered to a humidifier machine feeding steam into her trach that keeps her airway moist. Progress has been at best a “snail’s pace”, but we know that God is in control, _ He loves us, and He works all things to the good for those who love Him and are called for His purpose (Romans 8:28). This nightmare experience has already drawn our family closer and provided us with a couple of side-miracles we would not have experienced if not for this situation. As for me, Oh I had my moments of doubt, but the wonderful thing about our Father God is that He is faithful even when we are not. His promises are “gold” and if we’ll just hang on to them with our hearts God will always come through the darkest clouds. I’m proud of my wife, she’s a godly woman, a walking _ talking demonstration of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and I just thank God daily that He put it in her heart to love a flawed man like me.
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Oh..God bless your heart. I can understand your feelings. I lost my husband 6 yrs ago, and we were married for over 40 yrs. I still miss him terribly. I'm so glad she is still with you. You wrote it all so well. It was like reading a book. Take care and you and your wife will be in my prayers. God bless.