THANK YOU for all your kind expressions of love and affection over these recent weeks since my hospitalization. Your demonstrated concern and faithful prayers have meant more to me and my family than we can articulate. As Deanna spent several days replying to your many emails, we were deeply touched by your embrace. We feel like the richest people on the planet. Now that I'm home and on the mend, it is my great joy to finally write you again...
THIS NOTE was all but written last Friday when, much to everyone's surprise, I had to make another trip to the Emergency Room. I must tell you, I was tempted to just post the original email, since I have no intention of this forum becoming some self-sympathizing litany of my moment-to-moment medical drama--- puleeeaaase! (As if I'm the only one facing challenges...)
Originally, the tone of this message was: things were bad; now they're better; soon they'll be great. Now, from a medical standpoint only, that message needs to be revised a bit: things were bad; now they're better; but not quite as good as we'd thought; we believe they'll soon be great.
So, before I tell you about the "big event" on June 21st, here's a quickie on Friday's new discoveries:
1) there are some heart concerns, hopefully just short-term as my right lung continues to recover, and
2) some neurological issues, presenting primarily on my right side, particularly challenging because of the difficulty in addressing them for the next 6-9 months while on blood thinners.
Here's what we think of all this...
Now, back to three weeks ago... When we testify of God's miraculous hand on our lives, if we're not careful, we tend to embellish things a bit--- not out of an overactive flare for the dramatic, but just because our emotions are so raw and overwhelmed. As a preacher who's made his share of hospital visitations, I'll do my best to stick to "just the facts ma'am."
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory... --- 2 Corinthians 4:17
The truth is, when the Emergency Room doctor, exasperated at my disbelief of the seriousness of my condition, took me by the shoulders, and said to me eyeball-to-eyeball, "Tom you're not getting this; you should be dead right now," I truly thought he was overstating the facts for the sake of impact. But after hearing similar remarks (i.e., literally, "God must have a reason for you to still be here.") from virtually every doctor and nurse I encountered, it started to sink in... This is truly a bona-fide miracle. God saved my life.
I had multiple Pulmonary Embolisms, commonly referred to as blood clots, in my right lung. When I arrived at the hospital Saturday night I was experiencing intense, immobilizing pain on my right side, from neck to hips, and I felt like I couldn't breathe at all. I remember expecting to pass out, being surprised that I could withstand so much pain and remain conscious. We later learned the oxygen level in my blood upon arrival to the ER was down to 65% and falling, a condition known as Hypoxia.
Why none of the clots traveled to my heart or why the Hypoxia alone didn't lead to heart failure, is for God to know and for us to likely never find out. (We've since learned that Pulmonary Embolisms are the first or second leading cause of unexpected death, depending on age-group, and that over 80% of them are only discovered in autopsy.)
I ended up spending five nights and five days in the hospital, the first few in considerable pain. The pain was associated with the healing occurring in my right lung, as the oxygen-deprived tissue surrounding the "infarcted" (dead) area was being revived. (Lesson: Revival can be painful!)
I've been home now for almost three weeks. I'm on blood thinners (standard protocol for at least six months following a Pulmonary Embolism) and going in for blood work every few days, as they continue to adjust my meds. They tell me I'm "thick-blooded." Go figure; I thought I was only thick headed. (And now, since Friday's surprise, I also have to see a Neurologist... let's pray he finds evidence of a brain!)
Ironically, except for almost dying, and notwithstanding some of the additional challenges brought on by this trauma, all the tests show I'm in excellent shape. I tire more easily than usual, but I'm getting stronger. I've started training again, conservatively, with my doctor's permission. (No running for now... which was quite a blow, but interesting in light of my last email, Running Before We Walk
.) My doctor's name is Joe. He's a brother in Christ and we're becoming friends. One of these days, we'll go running together.
All things considered, nothing like prayerwalking across the country for seven years to keep you fit. I highly recommend it.
And now a little back-story for those who might mistakenly think me perceptive...
I went for a short run on Friday night, June 20th, 24 hours before my fateful trip to the ER. It took me 45 minutes to recover from a run that would usually take only five. Didn't give it another thought. Later that night, I had a painful, though much less severe by comparison, mini-episode (30-40 minutes) of what was to come Saturday night. I wrote it off as some mysterious pain, probably just gas. Now in retrospect, I'm remembering all sorts of weird pains, fatigue and even shortness of breath in the weeks prior to the ER. Of course, being the Superman-like "walk across America" guy, I didn't give any of these obvious warning signs much of a thought...
But wait; it gets better... So now it's late Saturday night; I'm home alone writing, when I start getting the same pain as the night before, just much worse--- starting in my neck, going down my right side, most intense in the right side of my chest. Again, I write it off as some mysterious gas pain and get up from my desk to walk it off. (It's now become too painful to sit, so I try to hold my open laptop over my head with one hand to continue writing with the other.) (I kid you not.)
Oh, and BTW, I'd meant to get over to the "Y" all day for a workout, but my "inspiration" at my laptop has now gone well past their weekend closing hours. (The docs say the workout would have likely been my last.) By now, I've swallowed a few handfuls of Tums. After about an hour of prayerfully walking around the house, surprised that my prayers aren't having much noticeable effect, things start to escalate quickly.
"Maybe I really am in trouble." That thought crosses my mind for the first time. All the while, Deanna's at Wal-Mart, grocery shopping with our only working car. (She'd finally given up waiting to edit my work after my nine-hour endless loop of "Just five more minutes Honey.") Sometimes there just ain't no living with us "artist" types!
I'd earlier called her to pray, but I call her again. I underplay the severity of pain, but ask her to get home. In the meantime, I call a medical friend on the West Coast and proceed to argue with her about going to the hospital. Personally, I think this next part takes the cake: While out on our front porch waiting for Deanna to arrive, I get the genius idea that since this is probably some bizarre kind of gas pain, I oughta beat myself on the right side of my chest, to dislodge any trapped gas bubbles.
Oh yeah; I'm that smart.
God had to be standing in heaven with His arms folded, just shaking His head. He must've called a few angels over and said, "Get a load of Demaree!" I'm guessing their response was along these lines... "God, with all due respect, are You sure You should save this guy?"
Now all this time, Deanna has no idea how serious this is, because I'm playing the tough-guy. In fact, I'm so convincing that when I call her to come home, she doesn't immediately run to the car; she simply stops shopping and proceeds to the check-out line. Remember, I've given her no reason to think otherwise; I haven't even mentioned I'm having trouble breathing. By the time she arrives about 20 minutes later, I've finished my Tarzan act and brushed my teeth. (If the doctor's gonna have me say "Ahh," it's the least I can do.)
As Deanna pulls up, I've gone from anxiously pacing the front porch to hardly moving, now gasping for air and virtually frozen in pain. She tries to help me to the car, but I breathlessly rebuff her, too panicked to be touched. By the time I shuffle myself into the van, she's already run the milk and eggs into the house and is sitting behind the wheel. "Seat belt!" she says. If I could have, I would have. I'm rigid like an ironing board (without a seat belt) as we race off to the hospital, just two miles away.
We could've called "911," but Deanna's faster. Those who have driven with her can attest to this.
After two pushes of Morphine, much oxygen, an EKG, countless blood tests and a CT-Scan, the ER doc tells me the problem. My reaction: "So doc, what's the drill here? You give me some pills and I go home?" A gaggle of doctors and nurses are running all kinds of tests with all kinds of wires and tubes; I'm unsuccessfully trying to sell them on letting me go home.
Once I've resigned myself to the fact that I'm not going anywhere, I just have one question: "You guys have a wireless signal here?" It's 2:00am when I send Deanna home to get some "personal items" (translation: my laptop). Two hours later, as they're wheeling my gurney onto the elevator, three nurses running interference for all the tubes and electrical monitors, I'm oblivious to it all, sitting up replying to an email.
You can't make this stuff up.
SINCE I'VE COME HOME, five of our friends have gone through the devastating loss of a family member, one of them a daughter only 30 years old. Why does God seem to save one and not another? The answer is too high for us, for His ways are truly higher than ours. (Isaiah 55) But I can tell you first-person: His sovereign hand of wonder-working power is just as present in those families' testimonies as in mine, for God is no respecter of persons. He gives and He takes away.
He teaches us to "number our days, that we would gain a heart of wisdom." (Ps. 90:12) We would do well to do just that.
We think physical healing is a big deal, and indeed, our God is the Great Physician. But much more than that, He is Lord and Savior. The greatest manifestation of His unfathomable grace is His forgiveness which results in our salvation and redemption...
I CAN'T IMAGINE A MORE PROFOUND GIFT than what I've been given. This newfound and abiding sense of the tremendous worth of each moment in His presence this side of eternity will most certainly mark the rest of my days. For some years now, I've been crying out to the Lord for wisdom and He is answering my prayer. I have a perspective on the preciousness of life that I probably wouldn't have had for a few more decades.
Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Rise up and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins"--He said to the man who was paralyzed, "I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house." Immediately he rose up before them, took up what he had been lying on, and departed to his own house, glorifying God. ---Luke 5:23-25
Further, the joy and honor it is to share it with my beloved Deanna and our kids, along with all of our family and friends, both near and far, is too much for me. I am undone. Together, we truly are a family and in our unity He is mightily glorified!
Over the next few months we will re-write our blue prints, better than before. Remember, our prognosis is LIFE, and life to the full! (John 10:10, NIV) We all serve a God who is transfiguring us from glory to glory! (2 Cor. 3:18)
New challenges require new resources. The Lord knows the needs of this mission. Indeed, He knows all of our needs in the days ahead and His grace is all-sufficient to meet them. I am confident to the core that this is not a step back, but the greatest leap forward in our collective service to Christ thus far. Glory to God!
THANK YOU for your prayers and all the outpourings of your great love and support. Now, to the fields, for the harvest is at hand!
You are greatly loved and appreciated,
What a gift of life, I have been given
What a gift of love, I never knew
What a gift of grace; I am forgiven
What a promise You've made; all is made new
--- A new chorus God's given me in recent days...