It is awesome to be able to thank the Lord for this additional chapter in our lives! It was fifteen years ago that my darling wife, Lea, was struck down with acute necrotizing pancreatitis while on vacation and given a 15% chance of survival. During her six months in Hartford Hospital, her heart gave up twice, requiring emergency procedures to revive her, and her lungs gave up twice, requiring extended periods of ventilation and strengthening of her lungs. Exotic antibiotic cocktails, plasma apheresis to filter cholesterol from the blood, continuous Roto-Bed therapy to save her from pneumonia, a tracheotomy, delirium, daily abdominal debridement, a hip-to-hip ventral hernia, and skin grafting were all a part of her treatment.

Thanks to the hospital, I was able to stay in a rented room at the former nursing school dormitory nearby, so I could be with her every day. Home was a thousand miles away. The emotional ups and downs were staggering, while she was kept in a drug induced coma for nearly 90 days. By day 72 her surgeon, Dr. John Mah, was starting to slowly wean her off the coma-inducing drugs, and she began several days of detoxification tremors. On the third day of weaning she was able to get off the ventilator for a few hours a day, made eye contact with several of us, actually focused on us, and smiled at several people as they came in to say, “Hello.” (Praise God!)

On day 84, she became more aware of her surroundings,  reached down and felt the bandages covering her huge wound, and was silently horrified, her eyes as big as saucers. Psychological paralysis set in. She was no longer able to move her limbs on her own. The condition lasted over night, but the next day, her short term memory began to return. By day 90 she was strong enough to have a valve installed in the tracheotomy tube, allowing her to speak. She had her first swallow test on that day, too, downing a few spoons full of cherry flavored gelatin. By Day 93, nurse Chris Watkins, hung all of her telemetry and IV drips on a wheelchair and took Lea on her first trip out of doors in over three months! It was wonderfu;! Sunlight and a cool breeze wafting through the rustling tree branches! Grey squirrels at play near by!

On day 101, she was moved from the ICU to the ICU Step Down unit, meaning reduced nursing, and by day 123 she was strong enough that Dr Mah removed her tracheotomy tube. We had hoped to transfer to Riverview Hospital, back home in Noblesville, Indiana before Christmas, but it was canceled due to lack of adequate treatment services there. Dr Tom Miller, our family physician, was not able to locate an Indianapolis surgeon who would take Lea as a patient, due to her critical medical issues.

We began to take short wheelchair trips through the Step Down Unit halls, and to the shower, trailing the IV tower, and soon she began physical therapy. She made good progress in getting her strength back, and she eventually walked in a walker!! On Day 156, she walked her walker through the double doors into the ICU and received a round of applause from the nurses who had cared for her for all those months! On day 170, Lea stood up, unassisted, by the side of her bed, held out her hand to shake hands, and greeted Chief Surgeon Dr. Orlando Kirton, with, “Dr. Kirton, it sure is nice to see you again!” He was overwhelmed! He was so surprised by her he blurted out, “You’re tall!”

The next few days were spent trying to locate an Indianapolis hospital that would take Lea as a patient, but none could be located. So, Dr. Mah made sure that I understood all the procedures for taking care of Lea myself, changing her dressing while protecting her skin from the pancreatic fluid draining through a fistula in her abdomen, what to be on the alert for in case problems developed, and we were discharged on day 181. We flew back to our home in Indiana via a commercial airline, since we had exhausted her health insurance, and the cost of an air ambulance was no longer feasible.

We have had only a few bumps along the way, the biggest being the development of Type 1 diabetes and clinical depression. Together they have caused her much angst. But, we have had much joy along the way as well. Our friends and families have been tremendous blessings to us over the years. We considered it a privilege to be close to our grandchildren and be a part of their young lives. We have also been blessed with excellent doctors and nurses along the way who try to give Lea the best possible quality of life.

We are now back to our roots in our home town. After being “away” for 56 years, living and working in various cities, it is of great comfort to her to be ‘home’ with her brothers and sister, and their extensive families. We are very grateful for the blessing of these fifteen years, and pray that the amazing story of God’s mercy and goodness worked in our lives will be a blessing to those who need to hear it. Lord, please bless these words, that they might be of service to You. You are an amazing God! Amen.