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Wonderful news today! Lea has recovered well enough from the pneumonia to be moved from her kinetic roller bed back into a regular hospital bed. Her breathing returned to previous levels of support very quickly after the move . . . 17 breaths per minute, 40% oxygen at 10 PEEPS, and her oxygen absorption rate actually increased a little today, up to 97%.

Dr. Mah was very encouraged by her quick response to corrective medications and therapy, and decided to change her over to a different means of feeding her. Instead of continuing to feed her via an IV line, another tube was inserted into her nose, down her esophagus past the stomach and pancreas into the small intestine. She will now receive her food through a continuous drip into this tube, which will get rid of another pathway for infection to be introduced.

She continues to get rid of excess fluid at a steady, heavy rate, has no temperature, and needs only occasional blood pressure medications, indicating that she is doing a lot of things right at the moment. We still have a lot of things to accomplish, and one is to determine whether she has enough pancreas left to produce adequate levels of insulin. She may be diabetic when she comes off support, and may require on-going support for blood sugar control.

Many of these things we won’t know until she completes running a few more hurdles, regaining full use of all her bodily systems, and enters rehabilitation. We hope that she can accomplish these objectives within the next several weeks, so we can transport her home for rehabilitation nearer to her friends and family.

While we are enjoying a respite from the terribly difficult days just behind us, we want to pause a moment to recall where we were just a week ago tonight . . . seven days after she suffered two heart stoppages and a lung failure, one day after another! It is just amazing how quickly you can bottom out, but also how quickly the power of prayer can restore us to a position of awesome improvement and miraculous healing.

I continue to be humbled by God’s mercy and marvel at the wonders he works as I see Lea returning from her deep sleep, opening her eyes sleepily as I read your messages to her. She can’t focus or move her eyes yet, but it is as though she is opening her eyes to concentrate on what I am saying.

Several folks have asked for info on whether a gift they sent ever arrived, since I haven’t mentioned them (or sent thank you notes). I have received several gifts for her, and display them on the window ledges in her room. Although she can’t see them yet, the medical staff sure has enjoyed them! I took some snapshots of the groupings I have made of the gifts and had Lance post them on Lea’s prayer page on his website. Take a quick look to see the gifts she will enjoy seeing when she wakes up. By the way, the little inspirational books you have sent I read to her over and over, and I know that she will enjoy reading them for herself when she is able.

Thank you again for your wonderful support and prayers. I have been truly amazed by our experience here, and have been honored that you have taken an interest and provided Lea with the loving thoughts and support we have received. I could never have imagined that a couple stranded so far from home could have been so uplifted by friends, family, and wonderfully compassionate folks we haven’t yet met. I hope we can all meet for hugs in the near future.

In His love,

Larry

Lea is continuing to hold steady, remaining in stable, though critical condition. She has not gone backwards since the weekend, thank God, and is making tiny steps of progress. Her doctor wanted to avoid doing any more tweaking of her medications or support today, letting her rest at her current level. She is doing a little more of the breathing herself, and keeping her oxygen level up where it needs to be.

Her lungs seem to be clearing pretty well, although they will not be completely clear for at least two weeks. The bed she has been on has helped keep the pneumonia from settling into any particular location, and a suction device added to her ventilator is periodically removing small amounts of fluid from her lungs. Since her breathing has improved, she has been able to have the rocking motion of the bed reduced from the initial 60 degree rotation to each side, down to 45 degrees this afternoon, and 30 degrees tonight. She may be able to get back into a regular bed within the next couple of days, barring any nasty problems.

As soon as the pneumonia is under control, treatment for other problems can be resumed. She still has an open incision in her abdomen, a pretty severe drug addiction, kidneys that are not quite healthy yet, and a lingering dependence on the ventilator. Hopefully, we will be able to wean her from the ventilator within the next couple of weeks, and get that abdomen closed up. Then, I think, we’ll be able to start on some real serious recovery and rehabilitation programs.

I thank God for the miracles He has bestowed upon us in this crisis situation, and, as you know, we have seen several. Even Dr. Kirton, speaking to us at Lea’s beside said, “She has had a spectacular day! Praise God!” Dr. Kirton has spoken of being “surprised” by her quick healing; “marveled” at her rate of surgical healing; “celebrated” the healing that took place in such a short period of time. All of these, of course, were the result of the power of prayer and God’s granting of miraculous healing for Lea.

This miraculous healing we have seen occurring has been the source of my motivation for these writings I’ve been doing. And, I have been very moved by the love, kindness and generosity I’ve experienced over the past several difficult weeks. I have had all kinds of notes of appreciation expressing how folks have been motivated by the messages to communicate better with their loved ones, or, that they are going back to church for the first time in years! It has been extremely heart-warming to receive the loving notes relating that the writer finally understands what the power of prayer is all about, because they experienced it for the first time through Lea’s ordeal.

It is very evident that Lea means more to many, many more people than I realized. She IS really special, isn’t she? What a gift she has been to me! I think it was probably the “vision” I had a while back that started me thinking about the depths of my love for her, and prepared me to bare my soul in this series of emails. It is certainly therapeutic for me, but, I think, is also serving a higher purpose, as I am lead to pray for the words of each night’s message prior to writing it.

I feel that I am serving God’s purpose in some manner, and pray that Lea and I might continue to minister for Him in the years ahead. I don’t know what shape that ministry would be, but I’m sure He will let us know. 🙂

Here is a prayer that my son, Lance, penned during this past weekend on behalf of his mother. It isn’t yet a finely polished prayer, but rather, a prayer pouring from an aching heart. I think you will see clearly that her inner beauty is seen by many others . . . even her sons.

Lance’s Prayer:

“Holy and Almighty God, you are awesome, glorious, and majestic. THANK
YOU, LORD, for the countless blessings you share with us every day.
Thank you for the gift of this life on Earth, the gift of fellowship
and compassion and prayer, and most of all, the gift of eternal life
in heaven. Lord, we thank you for blessing us with the miracle of our
angel, Leona Marie. She has touched so many of us so deeply with her
genuine ways and heavenly grace.

I must confess, Lord, that I have struggled with understanding the
purpose of her suffering and the grief it has caused for so many who
care for her. But after much praying and fellowship, I now have
renewed faith that your plan for her, though extremely difficult to
appreciate, is truly perfect. I trust that you, Lord, are in control
of all things, and that your plan for us is the most perfect plan, the
only plan. If you choose to take my mother home at such a young age, I
have to believe that in your infinite wisdom, you know that doing so
will better serve you than if you were to let her stay with us longer.
Lord, I must confess that I find this hard to fathom, but with all my
might I will embrace it as best I can.

Lord, I humbly ask that you lift up my father and fill his heart with
your love. He needs you now more than ever and we ask that you
continue to guide him, support him, and comfort him by sharing with
him your wisdom in these emotional times.

Please, God, I pray for your healing mercy for my mother, our angel,
Leona Marie.

Your will be done.

In Jesus’ name,
Amen”

A quick word about our friend Joe, who suffered the heart problems that caused us to stop here in Conneticutt. He called me today from his hospital room in Indiana to report that he was feeling very well, was sailing through his physical therapy, and may be able to move to an in-patient rehabiitation facility within the next week or so. He is enjoying being back home with his family and friends, and sends his sincere appreciation for your prayers on his behlf while he was in such serious condition. He joins you in prayer for Lea’s recovery, and is looking forward to a time when we can be together again.

I know I haven’t taken time to write many individual notes, but wanted to say “Thank you” for your very kind cards, letters and emails. They are the source of much encouragement and strength. Please don’t stop sending them! Thank you for your continued expressions of love and support, too. May God’s blessings flow richly into your life and love.

Warmest regards,

Larry

So, how do you like your roller coasters? You like them with high, steep ups and downs, or REALLY high, steep ups and downs? We have certainly been on one of the lowest points of Lea’s recovery so far during this past weekend. We took a REALLY steep drop in Lea’s progress this past Thursday, were on pins and needles throughout the weekend as we stayed by her bedside

We don’t know what the numerical number is for the chance of Lea’s recovery at this point, but Dr. Mah states that statistically 70% of those who suffer an acute pancreatitis attack survive. He doesn’t like putting numbers on chances of survival. They can come back to bite you. But, so far, we have felt very comfortable with the validity of the information, projections and predictions Lea’s doctors have given us.

Dr. Kirton, Chief of Surgery, is a very thoughtful and compassionate fellow. He has a medium to slender build and is probably about 6′ 2″. I’m no good at guessing age, but would be surprised if he is much over his early-fifties. He has a captivating smile when he feels the situation is right to allow it, and his white teeth are quite striking against his dark complexion. I think he could also be described as handsome, too. I know that he is held in very high regard by the nurses here at Hartford Hospital.

Last Monday, after closing up the left side of Lea’s abdomen, he came out of the ICU’s swinging doors into the waiting area, where I was sitting, with a big smile on his face. He was slipping his arm into his white doctor’s coat, obviously having just shed surgical scrubs. He was wearing a blue long sleeve shirt and red bowtie. My spirits were immediately lifted just knowing by that smile that he was going to give us good news. I told him later during a casual conversation that he is one of the few people who can make a red bowtie look good. He also takes ribbing well! J

Today, he stopped by Lea’s room in the morning, and again toward the end of the day, to see how she was doing. By afternoon Lea had done a great job of responding to the rotating bed treatment. In fact, by one o’clock in the afternoon the “swan” was removed, because it was no longer needed for her treatment.

This is the second time, by the way, that she has had a swan, properly known as a Swan-Gantz catheter. It is a thin, flexible tube that is inserted through one of the large veins that return blood to the heart. It uses a balloon to carry it to the heart to the pulmonary artery. Once there, the catheter gives precise readings of pressures and temperatures within the heart.

The reason the staff likes to see them go away is because they provide a path for exterior infections to go directly into the center of the heart. Taking it off a patient is a good thing, and a sign that their condition is improving enough that the risks associated with use of the device can now be avoided.

Her temperature has remained pretty close to normal, her blood pressure has been very good, and her kidneys are working well. During the mid-afternoon and again during the evening, sterile water was placed directly into the stomach through the tube in Lea’s nose, to see if her system would absorb water. A test last Sunday ended in failure, but today, there was some absorption that took place. If the digestive system will kick into gear, she can be given fluids through the stomach, eliminating the need for one more of the IVs.

Here oxygen support was reduced to 40% today, and she seemed to do well at that level, maintaining oxygenation of her blood in the 94-95% level. Again, this indicates some healing is occurring in the lungs. She is also getting a little touch of Lasix to reduce the fluids being held in her body. An ultrasound of her legs today showed no identifiable blockages in the veins or arteries.

All in all, as Dr. Kirton said this evening, “She is doing a spectacular ob” of overcoming her medical problems. She is a fighter, and God is guiding her every step of the way. He is giving us miracle after miracle in leading us through this trial, and we must continue to pray for His miraculous healing for her.

Thank you for your continuing devotion to prayer for Lea.

In His service,
Larry

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

Larry

Hello, everyone,

Lea remains in stable condition this evening, as she enters the last few hours of administration of the “wonder drug” Xigris, a man-made form of a natural enzyme called Activated Protein C. It is used to treat severe/life-threatening infections in the blood (severe sepsis associated with acute organ failure). This medicine is what the medical staff calls “the big gun.” It can be taken only for four days, and Lea’s four days ends at three o’clock tomorrow afternoon.

What we are hoping for at this point is an improvement in Lea’s chances of recovering her health and quality of life. Last Thursday, Dr. Kirton put her chances of survival of lung failure at 30%, but he said that people DO recover from this condition. He wanted to try Xigris to see if it might be able to turn her around and improve her chances. He stated that the drug has been successful in some people, and might be what we need to help Lea.

Today, during our third day of treatment with the drug, Lea’s four-week long low-grade fever finally broke, and her temperature dropped to slightly below normal. The medication may have located and destroyed the elusive infection that caused her temperatures. For the first time in five weeks, she doesn’t have a cooling fan blowing directly on her to help keep her temperature down.

That is an improvement. Also, her lungs are showing very small indications that some healing is going on. The oxygen levels have been able to be reduced to 45% and her blood oxygen is staying good. The chest X-ray taken today shows some general pneumonia throughout the lungs, and a procedure planned for tomorrow to suction the lungs should clear much of the fluid loosened by the antibiotics.

Her blood pressure continues to be very good. The medication that she had been receiving for blood pressure support periodically for the past four weeks is no longer on stand by. Her skin, one of the earliest indicators of general health problems continues to be excellent. It is shiny and supple, though puffy from the fluid being retained in her system to fight her ailments.

Dr. Kirton plans to inspect her abdominal wound Monday to make sure that she continues to make progress in recovering from her surgeries. He may also decide to close her wound if it is healing as well as it had in the past and other problems remain stable. He has also committed to advising us tomorrow evening what her medical condition is, and what his recommendations are going forward.

He has agreed to advise us if conditions change unfavorably for a complete physical and mental recovery. At this point, the staff feels there is no reason what so ever to doubt that Lea has 100% of her mental capacity, and that if we can overcome the medical issues we’re dealing with, she will be able to return to a normal life after completing physical rehabilitation. During that rehabilitation period we will do everything possible to make her quality of life as good, if not better than, it was before.

People survive acute pancreatitis, and, I am asking God to make Lea one of those who completely recuperate. (He is in the business of working miracles, and we’ve seen plenty worked here already.) As long as there is a reasonable hope for a complete recovery, it only seems appropriate for us to proceed. If that reasonable hope should be lost to us, we will have to consider other actions.

I appreciate your many kind comments, your questions and suggestions, and your kind wishes and prayers. Our entire family has been truly blessed to have your support to help us through this illness, and we want you to know how much you are appreciated. You have given us courage and strength to go forward, in His name, where others may have faltered and failed in similar circumstances.

I can only tell you that, at the end of the day, I have an abiding love for my darling wife, and hope that God will grant us more time together. If it takes beating very difficult odds over a period of months, reshaping my personal life to be available for her, helping her as she struggles to rehabilitate her body, helping her dress, pushing her in a wheelchair, or whatever else is needed,

I pray for that chance.

Glory to God,

Larry

Today was a pretty good day for Lea. We didn’t make any real forward progress today, but we didn’t take any steps back either. All in all she remained pretty stable. The medical team wasn’t willing to do much for fear that the results of anything they tried could just as easily turn out badly as produce favorable results. So, we maintained status quo throughout the day. The only change planned for tonight is the introduction of some plain water into her stomach to see if her intestines are able to absorb it.

Meanwhile, she remains on the rotating bed, and I get a pretty good workout trying to talk to her. J I “showed” her some home videos today, including an October 2003 tour of our home, the Asher Walton House, she did for the local cable television station. The program is all about our beautiful home and the history as best we know it back to its construction in 1868. It was great fun living there, and we adored the lifestyle we were able to share.

I was thinking about that lifestyle and how the next chapter of our lives will be different. I was wondering what the next steps might be, knowing that she will probably want to go back to work as soon as she can. She has a wonderful family of friends and co-workers at the company where she has worked for nineteen years, and I am certain she will want to return. But, I also know that she is going to have several months of rehabilitation. Much of the time she will have to be in a wheelchair.

As I thought about those things, and the uncertainty of what lies ahead, I also thought about a question someone asked in a conversation earlier this week, relating to why good people have to suffer. It reminded me of a reader’s submitted question I read in a recent publication. It was something like: “If God’s will is always going to be done according to an infallible and unchangeable plan, why do His believers ray for mercy when someone special to them gets sick?”

I’m no theologian, and I’m probably going to get in way over my head, but I’d like to share with you some of the things that came to mind as I considered why a person as sweet, loving and giving as Lea is would have to go through something like this illness she is suffering through.

Perhaps a part of the Master Plan is for people like Lea, who have positively affected so many people, to become so ill that those who love her ask others they know to pray for her recovery, and it is the people who pray for her, and ask others to do the same, who really do the Lord’s work is achieving some small piece of the Master Plan.

Perhaps it isn’t the prayers that change the will of God. Perhaps it is the power of faith observed by other weak believers, or non-believers, that bring others closer to God that is the real power of prayer. Perhaps it always was God’s will that she survive. Perhaps His plan is to bring her home to receive her reward. That Master Plan isn’t going to be changed. But, what will be changed, because of her “ministry,” the hearts she has touched over the years, the affection she has earned from others, will help many others.

I receive notes from many who read these updates that the situation Lea and I are going through has caused them to pause to reflect on their own marital situation, and they are working on improving that relationship, starting by saying those things that need to be said between life partners. Many have stated that they have had their eyes opened to the miracles God works in our everyday lives. Others talk about being moved closer to God. Maybe that is the real power of prayer.

I don’t know whether Lea will survive, but I know that God’s will is being served. I know that I have witnessed the power of prayer a number of times during Lea’s ordeal. The doctors and nurses are very much aware of the love and affection directed toward Lea. The nurses listen with affection as I read your cards and emails to her. The doctors have said many times that they have marveled at the healing that has been done.And, they have seen me pray at Lea’s bedside, my forehead touching hers, my hand resting gently on some part of her arm that doesn’t have a needle stuck into it.

They have seen her room decorated with the loving gifts sent to her, the bulletin boards covered with greetings and well wishes. Often one of the nurses assigned to another patient, will stop in Lea’s room just to touch her arm for a moment and tell her that she is doing real well.

She is touching hearts. The love and devotion that surrounds her is touching souls. Perhaps this is what her illness is all about . . . letting others see what the power of prayer is all about. I know that I have been moved many times by the sheer number of wonderful people who have sent notes of encouragement and love. I feel privileged to have had her in my life, just as you have.

For those of you who haven’t known her, only meeting her through these updates, you may have received these updates through someone who loves you enough to share them with you. If so, you have experienced the power of Christian love and compassion.

I, for one, an humbled by this experience, and am awed by the power of prayer and the willingness of folks like yourself who have joined the prayer battle for healing. Those prayers, I think, must surely be the most powerful prayers, because they come from people who don’t even know Lea, but are often offered up because of the love felt for that person for whom they are praying. That is selfless. That is Christian love.

My prayers, on the other hand, are filled with bias. I can’t pray for her on a purely spiritual level, because I want her to be delivered from this illness for my benefit. I don’t want to lose her. But, whether I get to have her back or not, I know that I will love her forever. And, I will thank God for having made her a part of my life.

May God bless you, and richly reward you for lifting Lea up to Him for His healing.

Sincerely,

Larry

Another tough 24 hours, but at the end of the day Lea is just a teeny little bit better. She is pretty stable right now, and has been for the last few hours, but it took a while for us to get here. She actually began to improve at about 3:45-4:00 yesterday afternoon, when the blood pressure medication was reduced, and the respiratory therapist was able to reduce her ventilator support a teeny bit.

Her lungs are receiving 55% oxygen from the ventilator, and her blood oxygen saturation is 97, and the pressure being applied to expand the lungs is 12. The oxygen was run at 100% right after her “lung event” yesterday morning, reduced during the day by small increments as her lungs were able to compensate, to the 55% level, where it remains tonight. The goal, ultimately, is to get the oxygen support down to 40% or less as her pneumonia clears up. The goal for the pressure applied to the lungs is 5 (currently 12), but it was up in the 20s for a period yesterday. It may take us three weeks to get there.

Meanwhile, she is doing a little better on handling the ventilator, so the staff has been trying to wean her off the chemical paralyzer they had to give her when she was fighting so hard to breathe at panic rates. She is doing better now at letting the machine do the breathing for her, so she has been weaned to the point that the paralyzer is completely turned off, and sedatives are being increased to make sure she is not in pain.

She is still retaining more fluid than she is getting rid of through her kidneys, but hopefully they will be able to give her Lasix to get rid of it instead of having to put her back on dialysis. She is on her rotating bed, and I am becoming an expert at adjusting it and helping set it up. I even made a couple of medical improvements to the bed system using string from surgical masks and utilizing boy scout square knots. J

As I sat with her last night, I realized that with the rotating bed, which automatically rocks from side to side, I could only talk to her about half the time. Because the bed would roll her to her right side very slowly, then return past center over to the left side and back. So, for a while I would walk from side to side, until the nurses started making fun of me. So, I just stood still on one side, and kept telling her it isn’t nice to turn your back on people, but it didn’t seem to make any difference.

Since carrying on a conversation with someone who won’t even make facial expressions is pretty tough, I find that reading to her is probably a very good thing to do. I feel like I’m doing something to help her in between the times I brush her hair, try to do braiding, put lotion on her, and massage her hands and feet and move the joints to keep them fluid. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy reading your notes to her so much. Particularly now. They are short, and I can get two or three read before she turns away again!

One of the other things I like to do is sing short songs to her. I have to be really careful that I sing pretty softly, and that no one else is around, because I can’t hit a note or carry a tune at all, and I don’t want to frighten anyone. (We ARE in intensive care, you know). But, when we were home, one of our fun evening pastimes was for her to sit in the parlor reading while I played love songs for her on my keyboard. I’m not worth a darn, having just taken it up this past winter, but I play from my heart nevertheless.

One of the love songs I really felt expresses my feelings for her is one I loved to play for her, and I sing my own version of it to her now, softly in her ear:

Only you can make the world seem right.
Only you can make the darkness light.
Only you, and you alone, can thrill me like you do.
You’re the one.
My one, and only you.

(My apologies to the songwriters).

Goodnight and warm regards,

Larry

Hi, everyone,

I’m an emotional wreck tonight. After sitting up most of the night with Lea as the staff worked to return her to a stable state, seeing the small wins and the losses, being asked to leave the room while they did something I’m sure is horrible, visiting the cafeteria (can I get a YUK!?), and seeing her finally stabilize after about ten hours of really hard work, we had a pretty emotional day shift.

For most of the shift today I wasn’t allowed in the room. I went to rounds this morning at 6:00 a.m. and the doctors told me that they were pulling out the big guns in a last ditch effort to turn Lea around. Several procedures were planned, two different ultrasound tests, the bronchial suction to remove liquid from her lungs, implant of yet another special IV line called a P.I.C.C. line, installation of a SWAN (a catheter that goes directly into the heart to report what’s going on in there), more medications, including a wonder drug that has helped turn some very sick patients around very quickly.

One of my first objectives this morning was to ask the hospital’s social worker for a Family Conference to help us understand Lea’s condition. I requested the Family Conference for next Monday, since Dr. Mah, Lea’s attending physician is on vacation this week and would need to get up to date. The Nurse Practitioner on duty said, “You can’t wait until Monday. This was a significant event. You need to do it today.”

This afternoon at 5:00 P.M. the hospital set up a conference call with Lea’s sons, brother, sister, and their spouses, to get an update on Lea’s situation from the surgeon, Dr. Kirton, and the Nurse Practitioner, Ellen Gleason. Dr. Kirton started by giving a general update, followed by questions and answers. He stated that three days ago he had closed up the left side of her incision because she was surgically well enough. However, ever since that procedure she required more ventilator and blood pressure support.

There wasn’t any new infection in the abdomen when they looked at it yesterday, so they feel the closing of the wound was not the direct cause of the problem. He also said that everyone who is on the ventilator for extended periods gets pneumonia, so her pneumonia was not a surprise. The surprise was the amount of ventilator support she required, coupled with the cardiac events she suffered the previous two days, indicates a likely blood clot in the lungs.

In the last 24 hours they have taken some proactive steps to improve her chances of overcoming this setback. They installed the IV Filter which will catch blood clots traveling toward the lungs and preventing a recurrence of the lung problem. The changed mechanical support from the ventilator (by paralyzing her own lungs), are clearing pneumonia from the lungs via suction, and have put her in a new bed which helps prevent the fluids in the lungs from pooling.

For the first time in the previous 48 hours, they had been able to wean her completely off her blood pressure support medication, came down a little on the ventilator support, and gave her a designer “wonder” drug to help slow any other problems from developing.

Currently, he said, we have a stable situation; with hopes the new drug will “turn her around,” although we have a significant risk of her not surviving the next 36-48 hours. The medical staff is doing everything possible to give her every chance of survival, and will be working very hard to see that she makes it through the weekend. The lung problem will lengthen her hospital stay a minimum of another three weeks.

He has committed to giving us a revised estimate of her chances of survival by Monday, and assured us that he will tell us if there is no longer a reasonable chance for her. “We” asked during the conference call whether her condition warrants continuing attempts to sustain her. The Nurse Practitioner stated that it is definitely worth it at this point; the lungs can get better; the kidneys are getting better; the pancreas is getting better. In fact, before this lung problem occurred, they felt that her chances of survival were 80%. Now they feel her chance is 30%. (Remember when it was only 15%?)

The next 36-48 hours are critical to her survival. This is the time we need to pray for guidance for the medical staff that they decisions they make are those that help her, and that Lea receives another blessing of miraculous healing. It has worked again and again during her illness, and it will happen this time, too.

Thank you for your loving thoughts and prayers on her behalf,

Larry

Lea suffered acute decompression of the lungs early this morning, caused by low blood pressure, low heart rate, and low oxygen absorption. She is sicker than she has been for quite some time. She has retained a great deal of fluid, and is again quite puffy and swollen. She is heavily sedated to eliminate the possibility that she is feeling any pain.

Throughout the day today the medical staff worked to adjust her medications to get her situation under control. She received two units of blood overnight, and lots of extra fluid to diffuse the effects of any problems in the blood stream. She has had Systemic Inflammation Respiratory Syndrome since the onset of pancreatitis, but now also has Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome.

Dr Kirton also changed the dressing in Lea’s wound today, but decided not to close her up since it might cause her more stress. He is thinking he may close her up on Friday if she stabilizes by then. Surgically she is doing really well, The healing continues at a rapid pace. The problems we now face, while life threatening, are not totally unexpected.

The reactions Lea is having are often experienced in cases such as hers. There are problems that have to be confronted with each one of the organs on the long, slow road to recovery. Not everyone has all symptoms, but the symptoms she has had are not unusual in these type cases.

For the past three days the respiratory therapist has been getting small to moderate amounts of a pale yellow secretion from the lungs when they check for fluid in the lungs every two hours. They have made cultures out of the secretion each day, and know which bug is growing in there. They are treating her with antibiotics to get the bacteria under control.

This afternoon the resident doctor decided to have a specialist come in to examine Lea to determine a course of action, since they had been unable to get her respiratory problems resolved. She appears to be in panic mode, probably because of the level of pain she was experiencing, and was breathing way too fast. They gave her heavier doses of medications to get her to relax, but she kept fighting the machine.

The specialist arrived late afternoon and set up a large monitoring device next to her bed, and put a lighted scope with TV camera down through the ventilator tube into her lungs. As the camera traveled down into the lungs, he showed me the mucous build up in each of the chambers. It isn’t a huge build up, and the outlook for treating it looks good.

Tonight they are going to place a catheter back into her heart, so they can monitor with more accuracy what the heart is doing and how it is performing. They are going to put her into a special bed designed for pneumonia patients, that lets the patient be rolled from side to side and top to bottom, to move the fluids around in the lungs in an attempt to keep them from pooling and causing further problems.

As the next step in treatment of the pneumonia, they need to be able to control her breathing, which they can’t do while she is attempting to breathe on her own. They will give her a chemical to paralyze her so the machine can take control of her lungs and maximize the healing capabilities of the ventilator.

These steps were going to take them a few hours to accomplish, so I am going to try to get a couple hours of sleep before going back over to be with Lea. I had a heart to heart talk with her tonight, and reminded her that I want her to stay with me, but that I understood that she has some wonderful rewards awaiting her in heaven, and if she wants to go, she should go. I release her.

And, then I prayed, my forehead on hers, my hand on her arm, that the Lord’s will be done, and that He would open up my heart and mind to receive the wisdom He is giving me. I prayed that if it is His will that He should take her at this time, that He do so quickly to ease her pain. But, if it is His will to return her to us, that He grant her miraculous healing so she can get past this pain as quickly as possible.

We appreciate your prayer support, and have seen miracles worked here in this hospital. Even is Lea should go to her reward from this place, what has happened here over the past four weeks will not be forgotten. There have been too many hearts touched, and too many souls stirred. God is truly at work through this difficulty!

In His service,

Larry

 

Sorry to have to report another tough day for Lea, but she seems to be struggling quite a bit right now. She is evidently very much aware of the severe pain in her abdomen now, and that is causing her to hyperventilate and raise her blood pressure to dangerous levels. It is like she is in panic mode, breathing very fast and heaving her chest as though she can’t get enough air.

This has caused her nurses to give her more medications to support her heart and lungs, while trying to bring her up off the sedatives, until they reached a point that Lea seemed to just give up, and her heart rate dropped to nil again today, just about 23 hours after she did it the first time. In this case, however, the nurse was in the room watching her when the event took place, and recovery was much quicker.

I had talked to Dr. Kirton earlier in the day, who thought the problem might have been caused by her abdomen being bound up so tightly after the surgery, causing intense pressure on the organs. He thought this might have caused so much generally distributed pain that Lea just decided to give up in order to escape it. He did say, though, that he didn’t think that sounded like her.

After today’s “cardiac event,” as they call it, the hypothesis is that she had a pulmonary embolism, or blood clot in the lungs, that stopped the flow of blood back to the heart. Since she was now stabilized, they felt the danger was now over from that blood clot, but they had discovered another one, using ultrasound, at the top of the left groin. There was a danger that the clot would be the next to move to the lungs.

The ICU doctor on duty explained that they couldn’t thin the blood to dissolve the clot because Lea still has an open wound, and would bleed profusely from that. They weren’t able to do their normal scan for the embolism in the lungs, because the dye that has to be injected into the blood to do the test would destroy her ailing kidneys. So, they had to make an educated guess, and the guess was that she was having blood clot problems. They didn’t want to move her at all, so proposed doing an emergency procedure right there in her room. Because of the incision in her abdomen, they couldn’t tell on the ultrasound whether she had any blood clots already on the way to the lungs.

The procedure that the Dr. recommended is similar to a heart stent implant, except in this case a metal ball similar in shape to an umbrella is implanted in the large vein leading to the lungs. The device captures any blood clots that might be traveling to the lungs, and prevent them from causing any problem. If the device should get clogged with a clot, there are additional, smaller veins that would reroute blood to the lungs.

I approved the procedure, even though there was a chance that there may have been a clot already in front of the point of insertion of the catheter. If there was, it would likely push the clot into the lungs where it could wreak havoc. If the clot were big enough it could shut off a large portion of one of the lungs. I prayed, along with those of you who responded to our emergency prayer request this afternoon, that God would deliver her from this latest trial. And, He did! Praise God! He is working miracle after miracle in answer to our prayers!

Lea is resting comfortably right now, under heavy sedation. That’s probably going to help her rest much more than she was earlier when she was so apprehensive. Tomorrow Dr Kirton has planned another surgery on her abdomen. If she has healed well enough he may go ahead and close the rest of the incision up. Once that is done, she has a good chance of turning the corner and beginning the recovery stage. On the other hand, there are still lots of things that can go wrong. She remains very, very sick, and will be sick for several weeks even if things go very well.

Please continue to pray for her miraculous recovery so she can return to us healthy and whole, full of energy and good cheer, a blessing to all around her. Her countless friends and wonderful family earnestly yearn to hear her laugh and see that glorious smile. I long to have her by my side once again, my best friend, just as we were in Maine only a few weeks ago.

Glory to God for his loving care,

Larry

 

 

ABOUT HARTFORD LETTERS

Experience the Miraculous Healing and Recovery of Lea Vaughn, and the incredible spiritual journey of her husband during 180 days in Hartford Hospital. Read his original daily emails in "Hartford Letters" above. ____________________________

In “Prayer,” above:

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Praise: Lea
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