God is great! Lea is on the mend again! During a family meeting conference call this afternoon Dr. John Mah, Lea’s surgeon, stated that Lea is making significant progress in fighting the infection in her body. For the first time in four weeks or more the low-grade temperature she has been fighting has been moderated. We’re not sure it has been eliminated, but it has been slowed significantly. We’ll see what happens now that her four-day course of Xigris has been completed.

Her lungs are handling slightly reduced ventilator settings, indicating that some healing is going on there. Dr. Mah said to expect that the battle against pneumonia will normally take two to three weeks, and will likely extend her stay by at least that amount. The pneumonia was not totally unexpected, since it occurs in most patients on a ventilator. What was unexpected was how severe her reaction was to the pneumonia.

Treatment of her Adult Respiratory Inflammation Syndrome is going to take some time, and we may see a flare up after recovery begins, but Dr. Mah is fairly confident that recovery will eventually be accomplished, barring any major setbacks. Since the lungs are the only major organ disfunctioning at the current time, she could rebound fairly quickly after she regains control of her breathing. As soon as she shows some recovery, and then stability, attempts will again be made to wean her off the ventilator and get her breathing for herself again.

Efforts to slowly bring her up out of sedation will be started as early as next week, if she continues to improve. Slowly means that they will reduce her medication by 2% a day, bringing her up to full consciousness in about six weeks. She is getting big doses of addictive drugs, and part of the recovery will be managing the withdrawal symptoms over a period of time. She will likely be confused and disoriented at first, but patients usually improve with time.

Her surgery continues to heal very well . . . better than expected. But, the surgeons have decided not to close it soon in case she suffers another set back of some sort. It may be important for them to be able to get back in to the abdomen to ensure that nothing goes wrong inside. The pancreas appears to be healing very well, and surrounding tissues appear undamaged to any large extent. Dr Mah plans to make her incision scar as minimal as possible.

The doctor stopped short of saying that recovery is certain, but did indicate that he remains cautiously optimistic for her recovery over the course of time, barring any more major setbacks like the one just experienced. He also stated that he thinks we may be able to get her out of the rotating bed quite soon, which will make it much easier for me to read to her, and keep the floor tile from wearing out around the end of the bed too quickly. J

As I washed and prettied Lea up this afternoon for her surgery, I began relating to her my memories of how we met. It has always been funny to tell someone the story of our meeting, because she would always say she remembered it differently. But, being good-natured as she is, she has always taken the ribbing in stride, and I’m still waiting to hear her version of the story.

When I was a junior in High School, I had made friends with a neighbor, George, who lived three houses down from us. George was a senior that year, and he had been dating my younger sister, Jean, who wanted to go to George’s graduation, and then go out to dinner afterwards. But she wanted to double date, and asked me if I would get a date and go with them.

I had just broken up with a girl, and didn’t know who might be available. I called several girls I knew, but was unsuccessful in finding anyone who was available to go out on that night, just a week away. Reporting this to Jean, she suggested that I call some of her friends.

That idea didn’t appeal much to me. After all, we were talking about freshmen girls, two years younger than me! I didn’t know any freshmen, other than boys on the junior varsity football team. I thought of them as being quite a bit younger, and consequently had no friends in that age group.

But, after making phone calls over the next couple of nights, and still not having any luck, I decided to pursue a date with a freshman. After all, it was just for the one night, and George and Jean really wanted me to double date with them. So, I went to Jean and asked her who she had in mind for me to call. She mentioned a couple of girls, one who lived just a block from us on Grace Street.

I knew the girl, from seeing her at the school bus stop, and walking by our house on the way to the neighborhood grocery store. Although she was cute, she was two years younger than me, so I had not paid much attention to her. But, I called to see if she would be interested in going out that. Unfortunately, her family had conflicting plans, and she was unable to accept.

I asked Jean whom else she thought I should call. She got her billfold out of her purse and started showing me photos of her classmate-friends. We sorted through them, eliminating those girls who were in relationships, and then I sorted them again, making a short stack, with my first choice on top. After calling each of these girls, and having no luck at getting a date, Jean and I returned to her wallet to see what pictures she had left.

One photo caught my eye. It was a thin little girl, in a simple blouse, who had a lovely smile. I asked who it was. Jean said that her name was Leona, and though she didn’t know her very well, she seemed to be very nice. She went on to say that Leona was Jim Tate’s sister. I was surprised! I had known Jim a long time. I was surprised that he had a younger sister.

I visited with Jim by phone for a few minutes to catch up on old times, and told him that I was trying to find a date for the senior graduation. I asked what he thought about me asking Leona to go. He said, “SIS? Oh, she’d probably think that was all right. You wanna talk to her?”

I don’t remember much detail about our specific conversation, but I recall that it was fairly brief. I told her that our plans were to double date with my sister, attend the graduation and go to dinner afterwards. We agreed upon a time for me to pick her up, but I don’t recall any other chatting. I was happy when she accepted, but I really didn’t expect much to come from the date. She was someone to go out with for the evening, and that was what I needed.

At the appointed hour I drove Jean and myself to the Tate’s house to pick up Leona. When we arrived, and were invited into the living room, there seemed to be an awful lot of people in the room . . . I didn’t realize how big the Tate family was . . . five boys, two girls, and mom and dad. And, they were all in the living room of that house, wanting to get a glimpse of the guy that was taking “Sis” out on a date!

I was a little overwhelmed, of course, but found that chatting with Jim eased things somewhat. After a few minutes the younger brothers and sister started leaving the room to do something, or anything, more interesting. I began to wonder what she would be like. I felt some apprehension at that point, because I hadn’t dated a girl as young as my sister, and mused that an evening of little or no consequence lay ahead.

Then, Leona came into the room. She was dressed in a white islet party dress with full skirt that came to about mid-calf. It had narrow black ribbon at the hem, neck, and short sleeve, finished off with a black belt. She was very slender for a fifteen year-old girl, and couldn’t have weighed a hundred pounds. I later discovered that I could encircle her wrist with my middle finder and thumb! She was hardly more than skin and bones!

Oh, but she had the face of an angel; perfect complexion, curly dishwater blonde hair, bright blue eyes, slender straight nose, full, pink lips, and a smile that radiated like a beacon. The combination was quite enchanting. She talked excitedly to Jean about how much she had been looking forward to going out, and when Jean complimented her dress, she turned around in a circle, sending the full skirt sailing to its full length, floating above the floor.

Then Jean introduced me to her, and she said that she knew me from seeing me on the team when she stayed after school to watch her brother Jim at football practice. A few more pleasantries were exchanged with the family, and we said our goodbyes to head for the ceremony at the high school. When it was concluded, we gathered up George and drove through town and across the river to the restaurant located just on the other side.

Leona and I sat beside each other across from Jean and George in a booth table. I found her conversation to be fascinating. She was very mature, having a great deal of responsibility at home taking care of her younger sister and brothers, preparing meals, doing laundry and many other chores. Since her family was so large, she had to help her mother keep things in order and the youngsters cared for on a daily basis.

Needless to say, she captured my heart. I fell in love with her on that first date. I soon told her that I didn’t like her name, couldn’t call her “Sis” like everyone else in her family, so I was going to call her Lee. She thought that would be okay. Later, after we were married, she changed the spelling to Lea, saying that she thought it was more feminine.

Lea made a wonderful home for us. She had to learn how to cook for just two people, instead of for her big family, and we grew up together. We had decided to wait a couple of years to have children, so we could be together and enjoy doing and learning new things. We had great fun on weekend trips, and she became dearer to me with each passing breath.

She taught me patience, real love, compassion, and so many other things! I find it difficult to truly express how very much she has meant to me. She left her family to raise me. She, ever so gently, coached, guided, and led me to strive for self-fulfillment, to be a good father and earn the love of my dear sons. She taught me how to be a good husband and friend.

I loved her with a passion that knew no boundaries. I loved her, heart and soul. And, I thank God that the passion has never diminished, but, rather, has grown even deeper with each passing year. She has given me such a wonderful life-long love, that she has been my greatest blessing.

I will always hold dear the memories of her beautiful face, her supple body with its warm, comforting embraces, and her glowing personality. I thank God for the gift of her love, and praise Him for the many blessings He has given me through her. I often wonder if she isn’t secretly an angel, sent to bring grace to my time here on earth.

Thank you, God! Amen