Lea continues to be in stable condition tonight. She hasn’t made any progress on the ventilator, however, and the doctor is concerned why that is so. Earlier today he requested an ultrasound of her chest to see if there was additional build up of fluid in the chest cavity preventing the lungs from expanding fully. A few weeks ago nearly two liters of fluid was siphoned off her chest cavity which allowed her to make rapid improvement.

The ultrasound today, however, did not show any build up of fluids. At least, not enough to siphon off. So, after some discussion with colleagues, Dr. Mah talked to me about doing a full body CATSCAN. You may recall that he has wanted to do a CATSCAN for several weeks, but would not do it because of the potential damage to the kidneys caused by the contrast dye. He said today, however, that the time has come that he feels we need to do the test to find out what her problem is, and begin treating it.

He proposed doing a full body CATSCAN, from neck to pelvis, so we could look at all areas of concern with one scan. That means only having to use the contrast dye one time, and reducing the possibility of kidney damage. He said that we would be flushing her out with lots of fluids as soon as the procedure was complete. He felt that this is a necessary step, and that our hands will be rather tied if we don’t do it. I approved the test, and it was completed between 5 and 6 tonight.

I visited with Lea back in her room afterwards, and read to her from a magazine I received today. She was pretty heavily sedated, because she made painful facial grimaces and stiffened up when the team moved her from her regular bed to the CATSCAN table and back. She was resting well when I left the hospital. Her ventilator support had been turned up to a level that will allow her to get complete rest by not having to breathe for herself at all tonight.

I will meet with Dr. Mah tomorrow morning, after he has had a chance to review the CATSCAN results, to discuss the course of treatment from this point forward. There may be some additional treatment required that we weren’t aware of before, and it could be just the ticket to get her solidly on the road to recovery.

She continues to amaze me. When I am at her bedside, I can’t help but feel her strength. She quickly tires from the breathing exercises, and I know she has to be SO tired of being turned, pushed, rolled, probed, stuck, poked, moved, adjusted, stuck, pulled, hurt, bored and stuck. But, my, she is strong! She is fighting! And, like the doctors said early on, we can’t focus on day to day, but rather, look week to week to see how far we’ve come. And we’ve already come a great distance. Praise God!

One of my sisters, Pam, spent last week here in Hartford with me to lend some much-needed moral and physical support (Thank you, Pam). She recently copied me on an email to one of our family members who was asking about how I am holding up, and she had some really insightful comments that I’d like to share with you.

“Something he (Larry) didn’t pass along in an email was Dr. Mah’s statement in response to a question raised by one of Lea’s siblings pertaining to Lea and if her condition was bad enough to remove life support. He stated emphatically that “We aren’t there yet, we haven’t ever been there, we weren’t even there last Friday.” (That was the day her lungs failed, about two weeks ago.) It certainly was good to hear him speak positively of Lea’s condition.

I believe Lea is alive and well, trapped inside a non-cooperating body, so to speak. I know that she responds to Larry and I know that he believes this as well. I think he’s stating his innermost fear felt during a moment of weakness – something he and I discussed briefly when I was there. (I admit to having a fleeting moment of that same thought, even though I knew/know better.)

It’s so disheartening to go so long without any response, especially with the one you’re used to receiving open affection from. I tried to use my brief (surgical) experience to reassure Larry that you can truly hear when others talk, feel when they touch you – you simply lack the ability to respond . . . or maybe you respond an hour or so later when no one is there to see. Time truly has no meaning to you, everything is moment by moment inside the sedation.

I can only imagine what it’s like for Larry to spend such a long time caressing Lea, speaking words of love, maintaining daily those things that require it – brushing her teeth, combing her hair, washing her body and rubbing lotion everywhere that’s exposed – without any response. It’s heartbreaking to witness, to say the least.

But Lea does respond to Larry’s voice – visibly, even when she’s most sedated. I hope I reassured Larry that when he’s looking at her face, whispering words of love into her ears, I was focused on her monitor and could see the difference his voice alone makes to her. (I felt these were intimate times and chose to concentrate on the monitor rather than their “private” time.)

Once, when her blood pressure was alarmingly high, I saw it drop 15 (points?) at the sound of his voice when he was discussing her with one of the nurses, and then continue to lower – something the nurse had just told me would happen when Larry started talking and suggested that I watch the monitor while he involved Larry in a discussion.

Another time, I watched as her pulse jumped 11 points when he touched her gently just above the knee on her left leg, and saw a very brief response where she lifted both her eyebrows as if she was a little surprised/embarrassed by his touch in that particular spot – then I watched as it dropped when he moved away a few moments later. I saw her eyes pop wide open when I’d been there alone with her for a couple of hours, thinking she was again heavily sedated, and Larry walked in and said “Hello darling, how’s my girl?”. I know his fatigue is overwhelming at times, saw it when I first arrived in fact. His strength is there, he taps into it frequently, but he (like all of us, I think) is strongest when he presses into God. I see that happening even more with this email message.

I can’t help but wonder if he hit a day when there was no return email to encourage him, or perhaps no cards to read to Lea. I know that is one of his secret fears, that people will quit sending words and cards of encouragement to them. (Thank you so much for the cards you’ve sent!) He gets so excited when he has mail to read to Lea, talks to her just as if she were awake – holds things up for her to “look at”, describes the pictures on the cards, reminds her who the person/people are that have sent it because the doctors have said that some of her medication will cause confusion and maybe some forgetfulness. (They like it that way, so that she won’t remember everything that she’s going through while in ICU.)

Guess what I’m really saying is that I believe very strongly that Lea is there, hearing every word her beloved whispers to her and feeling every touch. She is so strong, her inner strength is constantly there, constantly hearing, constantly feeling, surprising us all with her baby steps of progress. I was almost jumping for joy when I once asked her to blink her eyes and she did so, almost immediately. It was a secret prayer of mine, that was answered the day before I returned home.”

And, so it goes. Little steps of progress. You just can’t overlook the wonderful blessings bestowed on us because of your efforts at lifting Lea up in prayer. We have seen miracles worked through this terrible illness . . . some of the miracles have been worked on Lea, and we have seen other miracles worked in the lives of others who have examined their own compassion through this ordeal.

I can’t thank you enough for you kindnesses, your selflessness, and your expressions of love. We love getting your notes and letters, and we enjoy reading them together. I am also saving them in a binder so Lea can read them when she wakes up. What a glorious day that will be! Glory to God for miraculous healing.

Warmest regards,