Hi, everyone,

What a wonderful experience it has been to receive your well wishes and continuing prayers on Lea’s behalf. I read every single email and egreeting to her, and can’t help but include the love and passion, interlaced with tears, that you include in your notes. I have made up a 3-ring notebook binder for her, and am keeping all your messages in it so she can read them when she awakens again next month. I feel a little silly reading the messages to her, because I can’t help weeping at the wonderful expressions of love and tenderness. It woudln’t be so bad if the nurses didn’t get teary eyed too. They know your love for Lea, and that Lea is a very special lady, and believe me, it makes a difference in the way they care for her.

She had, overall, a pretty good day. She had surgery again this afternoon, during which a few more small areas of dead tissue were removed from the pancreas. The surgeon said, “Not much, really.” He also said that the internal swelling had gone done enough that he was able to tighten her up . . . meaning that she had much less packing, and a smaller hump on her tummy after the surgery. Her blood pressure dropped a little low after the procedure, so she had to go back on a wee bit of medication to increase it. The nurses also could not get the dialysis machine hooked back up to her after the surgery, and were planning to replace the port in her right groin with a new one, so they could get her hooked up. The surgeon also told me earlier today that they would be taking more fluid off of her, which will reduce her bloating.

Although she remains very, very sick, she continues to be in stable condition. Her temperature was just a little high tonight when I left the hospital (100.9) and the nurse was watching it to see how high it would go. There is usually no infection until it reaches 102 degrees. If it got that high tonight, they would take a blood culture to determine where and what it is so they can get after it right now. It could also simply be a reaction to being moved to and from the operating room, and shuffling of her internal organs during the surgical procedure. The nurse, Lynn, also promised to update the voice mail late tonight, because everyone has been so busy keeping up with her 20 drips, dialysis, drawing blood every two hours, turning (shifting) her every two hours to prevent bed sores, and all the other things they have to do, the updates have not gotten recorded.

One of the fun things we did today was play a DVD recording of our 2004 Christmas video for her, along with Lance’s Christmas song and Christmas story. It was a wonderful Christmas at the Walton House in Atlanta, with all the family gathered around. The recording started with the Birthday Party for Jesus, which we do on Christmas eve. The dinner table was resplendent in candlelit silver and blue decorations and snacks and treats to consume by the warm fireside. The evening included reading of the Christmas story from the bible, and other holiday traditions, including new pajamas for the granddaughters just before bed.

I’m sure Lea enjoyed listening, and recreating in her mind, the many scenes from the Christmas morning opening of gifts, followed that evening by what we loosely term a “talent” show. It is usually full of laughs as we poke fun at ourselves and share skits and other silliness. An example was a skit by Link and Deanna, who live in Hawaii, who did the 12 Days of Christmas in Hawaiian “pigeon,” a slangy language the Hawaiians use. It was hilarious, and I nearly expected Lea to smile when it was played.

She is scheduled to go back into surgery again Friday, again in the operating room, to check for any signs of infection, irrigate the entire area, and hopefully be able to close her up some more. What I mean by that is that after the initial incision was made, there was about an eight inch gap in between the two edges due to the swelling. I would estimate that it is down to about five inches now, and of course, we want it to go back to normal real soon, at which point they will allow it to begin healing from the inside out. I look forward to that day, because it is from that point they begin the two weeks until they will let her wake up.

We received several eGreetings from the hospital website today, and several emails from you as well. Please forgive me if I don’t respond to you right now with a personal email, but know that your thoughts and prayers are appreciated very much, and that your outpouring of love and devotion for Lea is humbling to me and her immediate family.

For those of you who have heard the whole story, and know that our neighors from Atlanta are here with us, here’s an update on Joe. He has now been diagnosed as having had a pulmonary embolism which caused him to go into aortic fibrulation, which we treated as a heart attack, which was the right thing to do. He is now breathing on his own, the ventilator having been removed three days ago. His voice is returning, color is improving, and he is getting tired of being in the hospital.

He still has a blood clot in his heart, and his heart is still in fibrulation. The doctors will “paddle” him at some point, when he is strong enough, to get his heart back into a regular rhythm. If he continues his current rate of improvement, he will likely be discharged in two weeks or so. His wife and son are here with him rotating shifts to sit with him at all times, and I have use of their truck whenever I need it to go get supplies, etc. I am staying in a room in former nursing student quarters adjacent to the hospital, and have received my office equipment, shipped from home, so I can teach my classes from here.

I am putting your notes and comments up on the bulletin board in Lea’s room so it will be inspiring when she is able to once again open her eyes. If you have a favorite photo of her, or anything of that nature that you’d like me to print out and hang up for her, just drop me an email with the graphic attached. I enjoy reading your notes to her, and holding the picture up in front of her closed eyes so she can see it. I know that somewhere, deep down in her consciousness, she knows that I’m being funny. She would expect nothing less!

Love to all, and thank you again for your love and prayers,