I, for one, believe there are angels at work all around us right here in plain sight. Oh, we can’t see that they are angels, they don’t have wings, or, at least I haven’t seen any, and I haven’t seen any halos or anyone appear and disappear out of no where. They may just be ordinary people being used to unknowingly perform angelic acts. Still, I believe they are here. Every once in a while I have someone enter my life that makes something happen that I just know is heaven sent. The timing is usually just perfect. In fact, I’ve heard it said that God seems to enjoy working His miracles at the last moment. Just in time delivery, so to speak. 

For the past several weeks Lea and I have been going to see various doctors to determine how we might get her huge abdominal wound closed up. The incision wound made for her pancreatic operations has been open now since July 21, 2005. She continues to have to wear a dressing over the skin graft on the wound to protect it from irritation caused by the flexing of the elastic binder that keeps her intestines inside her abdomen. Without it . . . well, there just isn’t an alternative to wearing the binder at this time.

We have to protect her abdomen from injury, because there is nothing substantial to cover her intestines. That was all sliced away to save her life while in Hartford Hospital. More correctly, I suppose, the muscle tissue that used to cover that stomach area is still there, it just has dropped a few inches below the initial incision, and then it healed in place. We have always believed that the muscle tissue would eventually be pulled back up into its original position and reattached.

It turns out that may not be possible. The first Indiana surgeon we had examine it subconsciously drew his hands back from the wound as soon as he recognized the extent of its mass and the implication of the proposed surgery. He quickly stated, as though thinking out loud, that the procedure would involve peeling the skin graft that covers the wound away from the underlying bowels to which it is attached, and that created the possibility of perforating the bowel, leading to serious consequences. He said he was not interested in doing the surgery, nor did he know of a surgeon to refer us.

Disappointed, we saw our own family doctor the next week, and he referred us to another surgeon with whom he has worked successfully for several years. Dr Miller had mentioned this other surgeon to us previously, and Lea said she wanted anyone but that surgeon to look at it. She had experienced a breast biopsy performed by this surgeon several years ago, and did not like him at all. In fact, she said he has the bedside manner of a cantaloupe.  

In that particular instance, she was to have a needle biopsy done to determine whether a mass in one of her breasts was cancerous. It turned out to be nothing. But, the surgeon came into the room where she was being prepared for the procedure, and after she had already been dressed in the gown and given a sedative, told her that because of the position of the mass it was going to have to be surgically removed, but it would be a very small incision, and the scar would be gone within a year.

She was too sedated to be as furious at the time as she is now, but it is several years after that surgery and the scar is still very evident, and you can still see an obvious indentation where the mass was removed. So, she certainly didn’t want to go back to him for her abdominal surgery. But, after being turned down by the first surgeon, she thought she wanted to, at least, get his opinion.

Upon examination, he affirmed the difficulty of removing the skin graft from where it was attached to the bowels, and, further, that the real problem would be getting enough skin and muscle tissue to cover the abdomen and adequately support the intestines so hernias wouldn’t occur through the resulting scar. He said it might be possible to do the surgery, but it wouldn’t be something he would be interested in attempting. He referred us to another doctor, a plastic surgeon.

His office manager called the plastic surgeon’s office to set up an appointment for us. As she was talking to that office they inquired what payment arrangements we would make, and when we replied with the name of our COBRA insurance provider, the plastic surgeon’s office replied that they don’t work with that insurance company, ending the conversation. They wouldn’t even see us unless we were ready to pay cash!

So, returning home without any other known avenues to explore, and feeling pretty disappointed with where we found ourselves, we talked briefly about the situation. We agreed that we may have to have her knee surgery done first, and continue searching for a general surgeon who would attempt the closing. We even talked about the possibility of returning to Hartford Hospital to have Dr Mah close it up, realizing that we would have additional expense involved if we did that. The insurance company has already said they wouldn’t cover the cost of travel or my expenses.

We prayed for guidance at that point; for His hand to become evident in our decisions; for provision for our immediate financial needs, and for continued healing for Lea. We lifted it up to Him, and began to await His direction.

She is not going to be able to drive a car for the foreseeable future, so we had put her second car up for sale after returning from Hawai’i.  We sold her other car while she was in Hartford Hospital to pay for additional expenses we knew we would incur there. The sale of her business car was going to be the first step that would enable a series of events to help us through a difficult financial time.

A few moments after we finished praying together, and had begun to get on with our day, there was a knock at the front door. When I opened the door, there was the smiling face of a woman who said she was interested in buying Lea’s car!  After she looked it over, and took a short drive, she asked us if we would hold the car for her while she got funds transferred. She was willing to give us a downpayment to hold it for her.

I invited her into the house to meet Lea, and as they began exchanging stories, it turns out the lady is a former patient of Dr Miller’s who had an abscessed bowel a few years ago that perilously threatened her life. It was only through the intervention of a trauma surgeon, who performed the emergency procedure and implanted a web material from hip to hip to strengthen her abdomen that she survived. She had only minor difficulties after the surgery, and now, five years later, feels fine.

She recommended that we contact that surgeon, and provided us the phone number and directions to get to his office. I called right away to make an appointment for the following week. Lea has now been examined by that surgeon, and unlike the previous two, feels that there may be a good chance the surgery could be successful. However, he wants to get a CT scan to see if there is enough muscle tissue remaining below the incision to be able to pull it up over the opening.

He did share with us that his initial reaction is that she is enjoying pretty good health with no abdominal complications, and he has to wonder whether it makes sense to go in there and get things stirred up. So, he is going to examine the CT scan to help him make a decision about what he should recommend. We will know more about those results toward the end of this month.

So, his remarks opened up a whole new thought process for us: what if he doesn’t think the surgery should be done? Should we pursue it further, or just accept that Lea will have to wear a binder for the rest of her life? That means, of course, that she would never be able to drive herself again. We would have to continue being very uneasy around shopping cart handles or youngsters’ elbows or anything that might puncture that thin covering.

She can’t do much gardening, which she has always loved, is restricted on bending, lifting, pushing and pulling, and there are many other limitations on her activities caused by that surgical incision, which is now called a ventral hernia.  Now that the skin graft has completely healed, providing a very thin covering over her intestines, the result is called a hernia, and it is called ventral because it is the result of a surgical incision.

Hernia! It somehow just doesn’t seem to be a big enough word for what she has been through!

However, it hasn’t escaped us that we arrived at this point today because of that knock on the door. The knock of an angel doing God’s work, which relieved a financial burden, and got us into the hands of a surgeon with whom we feel comfortable. God certainly works in mysterious ways, and my son, Lance, talks about God’s sense of humor, which became so evident to him while he was going through conviction as a Christian.

I thank God for the many blessings He has provided our family, and for having His hand so obviously present in Lea’s miraculous healing. I thank Him for using this very kind lady He sent to our door to deliver blessings through her. She was His angel knocking at our door in a time of frustration and concern. And, yes, I thank Him for his sense of timing and His sense of humor. Our God, the “just-in-time” God! 

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