Saturday, December 19, 2015
Our Plans, His Plans
You know the saying, "We make plans and God laughs"? The bible version might be, "The mind of a man plans his ways, but the Lord directs his steps" (Proverbs 16:9). Well, we planned for this Christmas to be a really great, full of fellowship Christmas. We'd been working on the kitchen, and although it was taking us longer than we'd hoped, it was coming along. It's always been the grody room, old floors that never felt clean, cupboards that always smelled old, no back door. Although it still wouldn't be considered a dream kitchen to most (we still have no dishwasher, haha!), it was "us" and we were loving it. We were rearranging the other rooms, touching up paint, determining what could and should wait for after Christmas. This year the house would feel more "finished", we were excited to decorate and have PEOPLE over again. I was beginning to get a little antsy, David got a tummy bug in mid-November. He needed quiet and rest, so I had to hold off on projects. I'd tell myself, "It's okay, so I go over a bit into December, once I can make noise again, it should go quickly." By the weekend of the 22nd, he's having pain just breathing, so we go to the ER. They test to see if he's possibly having a heart attack, but all the tests come back clear. He got a prescription for a bacterial infection in his guts. He gets in with his regular doctor a couple days later, where his blood pressure is perfect, cholesterol is great, everything looks good. His tummy is getting no better, so the doctor tests for C-diff, and it comes back positive. David is allergic to penicillin, so he had been given clindamycin, which unfortunately allows C-diff to flourish. Fortunately we have a medical health savings account, because the medicine for it was $588!! Yikes! I don't know what we would have done if we'd had to pay for that on our own, good grief. By November 29, his guts were feeling better, but his lungs were still hurting when he breathed in cold air. He was staying huddled up on the couch, with a heater going next to him. He was feeling bad enough that I tried to get him to go back to the ER, but agreed to wait if he was able to get an appointment with his doctor the next day. I remember looking across the room and an unbidden thought came into my head, "If he dies, we'll be okay." I believe the Holy Spirit prepares us that way at times. I have had similar experiences before, but I still felt appalled at this one. Come Monday morning, he called and got an appointment for 3:00. He made some other calls, watched tv, ate the yogurt he needed because of his antibiotic. I was figuring out which projects lying around the living room I could finish, when he sits up, throws up his bit of yogurt, turn red and just looks at me. I rushed over to him, asking if we need to go the hospital or should I call an ambulance? He just looks at me, unable to speak, so I called 911. As soon as I ask for an ambulance, his eyes become fixed and blank and he's out. I'm realizing his heart has stopped, his breathing has stopped the operator is asking questions and even as she's asking if I can pull him onto the floor, tilt his head back, etc., I'm realizing I have no choice but to start chest compressions. I absolutely don't want to, I want the medics to do it, but I have to. I was remembering a conversation with David not too long ago, he has CPR training through work regularly and was telling me how breaths are no longer given, just compressions. Just keep the blood moving. The operator said to just keep going until help arrived. I was only partly relieved when help did arrive, they still had to do four rounds of CPR before they could even get him loaded onto the ambulance. I called my parents to come and get the kids, my wonderful neighbor and childhood friend came down, she had been hoping the ambulance wasn't for us, but then waited with me. I called David's work and let them know David had just had a heart attack. I don't remember who else I called, I know there were more calls. Jeni's wife, Dawn drove us to the local hospital, where I was told the helicopter was being readied to take David to OHSU. David's brother, Robin, met us there. David was stable at that point, but clearly only barely so. We go home, get a few things, my dad then drove me to Portland. His brothers are there, we just wait for him to get out of surgery. When he finally does, a rather grim doctor explains they've done everything they can, he had a 100% blockage on his left side, they put a stent in, but that side of his heart is dead. The rest is barely moving. They are going to put him on a machine, called an ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation) that will pump and oxygenate his blood while allowing his heart and lungs to rest, the hope being that his body will heal enough to be able to figure something out. Because the ECMO has been used primarily on children, we'll be heading over to Doernbecher's and staying in the PICU. So much of that time has turned into a giant blur, but family and friends came in, Facebook was beneficial for once and the news and prayer requests were shared around the world! David's brothers stepped right up and took care of me. They cared for our kids. I could write a book about how wonderful they, their wives, and kids are! David's coworkers have been amazing, they immediately began collecting money for us, sending gift cards, good thoughts, plenty of prayer. Jeni began a gofundme, which brought in more help. Accepting money is weird for me, but I know we'll be needing it and I know all who have helped are happy to do so. At some point, my sister was able to join me and stay at the hospital for a couple days. David was hanging on, some things improving, others deteriorating.His lungs were doing better, but he developed Compartment Syndrome in his left calf and was beginning to get it in his other calf and forearms. They had to make an incision to relieve the pressure. He was on blood thinners to prevent clots from clogging the maching, so his wounds constantly seeped blood. He received many bags of blood. His feet were bruising, his skin becoming increasingly pale. He looked awful by Wednesday. Thursday, December 3, he randomly lost blood pressure. He was given calcium and it improved. Later in the day it became clear his body was failing. The doctors said if he was disconnected from support, he would be gone in a couple minutes. If we left him on, he would be gone a couple days. I trusted these doctors and could see they spoke truth. If David was going to die, we wanted to help others, we had had that conversation before and he was a registered donor. The family all came in to say their goodbyes, some to David, some staying in the family waiting room to just be together during this time. I explained to the kids that daddy was dying, but it wasn't something God was doing to be mean to us. God loves us, even when He allows hard things to happen. We would miss him here on earth, but would see him again when it was our turn to go to heaven , which would not likely be for a good long time. That he would get to see their brother and other two siblings we know to be in heaven. Little Mia came in and told daddy goodbye, she was going to miss him and she loved him. That about broke most of the staff. Geez, that about broke me. We met with the donor team, where Dr Gelow, one of the heart failure doctors cried, too. She was so heartbroken for us and our kids. She apologized for being unprofessional, but I found I preferred seeing genuine sadness to a doctor unmoved. Everyone was so amazing, they were so professional *and* caring. We filled out paperwork, the family left, my sister staying with me through the night. David would be kept on support while donor matches were made, I would notify the family when he was truly gone. The morning of December 4, I stalled a good bit on my goodbyes, staying in the waiting room as long as possible. Finally, I was as ready as I was going to get. Emily and I went to the PICU, rounded the corner to see the team in front of David's room for rounds. I stalled, not wanting to walk through that this morning, though I had been sitting in the other days. I could see I needed to hurry and go, the voices were extra quiet this morning, they were shooting me funny looks. I appreciated their sympathy, but was trying to hold it together until I could leave. I was hoping his body wasn't doing too much worse, I wanted him to be able to help other people. Emily and I hurried through the group and sat in the back of his room until they were done. I did get back up to go thank the team for how wonderful they were, how relaxed they had made me, how good and personable they'd been to David, I just appreciated them all so much. They all nodded, smiled, and looked funny. I went back to my sister and waited. Finally, Dr Gelow and Dr Hagg (his other heart failure dr) came back, Dr Gelow sitting next to me. She says, "I can't believe I'm saying this, but... his heart is healing." I'm momentarily almost angry at having potential hope dangled in front of me while trying to grasp what she is saying. They, being so careful and thorough, were doing an echo in the morning. Dr Gelow checked it and called down to see if this was even the right heart. She said there was no medical explanation, she knew we'd had people praying, and even the previous night I had several people messaging me that they were repeatedly wakened through the night, feeling pressed to pray for David. She said the heart he had that morning was now one she could work with, and to ask everyone praying to send a double dose for his brain! I'll stop there for now, this is already long and my kids really do need mom today. I will add, this Christmas may not be what we planned, but it really is the best Christmas, and astoundingly full of fellowship!