Sunday, July 22, 2007

From The Depths Of Despair To The Heights Of Glory

Where do I even begin? My life has changed since my last post. I can't even begin to put into words everything that has happened, everything I felt. We went from the depths of despair to the heights of glory.

On Monday, July 9, I received a phone call at 7 am telling me our son was being put on life support. Joe, our 21 yo, has been battling cancer for the last 15 months. He has been in the midst of a stem cell transplant and had been battling what doctors believed to be pneumonia. To make a long story short, his life was saved by a doctor who finally figured out he had a lung condition (ARDS) that was actually unrelated to his stem cell transplant but was brought on by the huge stress his body was enduring. Our son was put on life support. Our son was not expected to live. Joe's lungs were filling with fluid and blood, the lining of his heart was leaking, he was bleeding internally, his kidneys and liver were struggling, he was running fevers of 105; his body was failing.

But, his spirit was not. Doctors tried to keep Joe in a medically induced coma but the doctor said that was kind of like sedating a horse as Joe had such a strong will to live. In the one time I saw the doctor get emotional, he said that Joe wanted SO MUCH to live. He wanted to go home. We all knew that was not likely to happen. Joe's oncologist said there was no more hope but his pulmonologist said the situation was grim but he was a "glass half-full kind of guy" and he wouldn't give up hope until every last ounce of hope was gone. We clung to that hope.

The next few days were both a blurr and yet seemed to pass in slow motion. I often felt like I was in a movie, just going through the motions. At times I felt numb. At times I felt such a depth of sadness that I knew if I completely let go the planets would come out of alignment and I would never be able to pull my emotions together again. I held on to the trust that God would do what He knew to be right, even if it wasn't my plan. His plan is always better. Some memories are forever etched in my mind:

*Getting the phone call and hearing the doctors prognosis.
*Seeing my son on life support.
*Praying over the phone with our minister and hearing him recount how Lazarus was raised from the dead and clinging onto the hope that God might do the same for our son.
*Day two, crying into the phone with a dear friend, telling her what was happening and having her tell me I needed to hang onto hope. My tearful reply, "At this point, there is no hope."
*Calling my mom, who was watching our younger children, and telling her she needed to prepare 10 yo Kim for Joe's death. Kim is very attached to Joe and very tender-hearted. I knew his death would be especially hard for her.
*Praying with Eric and praying for a miracle--grasping hope once again.
*Hearing the 23rd Psalm fill my mind over and over again--"Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil; for you are with me." Trusting God.
*Experiencing the love and concern of so many family and friends who did everything from watch our children to clean our house to bring us dinner and fastfood/Starbucks gift cards. I have never felt so loved and cared for.
*The knowledge that literally THOUSANDS of people were praying for Joe--this lifted the weight so much to know that whatever happened, we KNEW God heard.
*The realization on Thursday that our fear of Joe dying was not the worst thing that could happen. We began to fear that his body would heal but he would be on life support for years. Despite sedation, Joe would become semi-conscious and made it very clear he did not want to be on life support.

Thursday evening, things were grim. Turning the vent down just a little had been disastrous. Joe had to be revived and doctors were having a hard time controlling his vitals. Joe remembers overhearing the doctors say that it may be time for the family to say their goodbyes. Joe says he remembers thinking, "Don't let me die!" He remembers feeling God's presence around him.

Joe lived. Over the course of the night, he improved in ways that could only be described as a miracle. Saturday morning he was taken off life support and he was talking, drinking water, and even standing up and walking around! He wasn't even on oxygen, which doctors felt he might need for the rest of his life due to his lung damage! I still stand in awe at the turn of events.

That very night, Joe was doing so incredibly well, he was taken out of ICU and taken back up to the regular floor! By Wednesday, he was well enough to go back home with his wife. His stem cell transplant was on-course and he was ready to return to his home.

Joe says he feels better than he has in two years. I still wake up every morning wondering if it was all a bad dream and stand in amazement at the miracle that has occurred.

The Sunday after our miracle, here was the verse up in our church; both Eric and I cried as we read it:

"Blessed be the Lord day by day,
The God of our salvation, who bears our burdens.
He is our God, the God of our salvation;
God is the Lord, by whom we escape death."

Psalm 68: 19-20


Hug your kids a little tighter, don't sweat the small things, pick up the phone and reconnect with a loved one, rejoice in your life and live life to the fullest! Reach out to God and fill your heart and home with his love!



Phx Barb said...

My heart ached as I read your journal entry. No family should have to bear such pain. I am so thankful that Joe made it through this medical crisis and is hopefully safe at home. We'll continue to pray for him and all your family. God is clearly by his side....

Heather Field said...

What an amazing testimony of faith in our amazing savior! Blessings to your family. I will keep you in my prayers!

S. said...

Wow! What an amazing incredible miracle! I am so thankful that your son is alive. God must have a special plan for him!

Christina said...

Ann, I'm just getting caught up on blogs after almost 3 weeks away and I am sitting here amazed at what God has done for Joe - for all of you. What a miracle!!!!! Praise God, I can't even imagine what you have been through and how hard those days had to be - I will continue to pray for Joe, that he will feel better day by day and this cancer will be gone for good!