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Day 191

Hello, dear friends,

I just wanted to drop a note to let you know that all is well here in Indiana. We have received the last box of belongings shipped from Connecticut, including the Christmas cards we received while in Hartford. Lea and I have moved into an assisted living apartment for a few weeks until closing can be accomplished on a small three bedroom house nicely situated close to our family doctor and the hospital. This community is very nice, and conveniently situated for our needs.

We have been going to the doctor regularly, and Lea’s lab reports continue to come back a little better each time, indicating that she is progressing toward recovery. She spent her first full day out of bed this past Thursday, and her strength is improving slowly, allowing her to do more things without having to have a nap. Her fistula continues to drain through the abdomen, and we are changing the dressing on it regularly. The skin graft continues to be excellent.

She starts occupational therapy tomorrow (Monday), and is scheduled for a six- week course of therapy, three hours each week. We are optimistic that she will continue to make good progress, and look forward to the day when she can return to work to be with those who mean so much to her. Meanwhile, I will be reestablishing my consulting practice in our new location.

Our temporary mailing address is 7215 Riverwalk Way South, Noblesville, Indiana, 46062. Sometime after closing, which we hope will be in mid-February, our permanent address will be 18849 Auburn Lane, Noblesville, Indiana 46062. You can continue to reach me at this email address, and you can contact Lea at Lea.Vaughn@gmail.com.

Since this will be my last note to everyone on our distribution lists, please let me express my sincerest Christian love for you, and my heartfelt appreciation for your prayers lifting Lea up for miraculous healing as we walked with God through the most difficult challenge of our lives. Your expressions of support lifted me, giving me the strength to endure and help Lea when she had no power to help herself.

We will never forget the kindnesses of the medical team at Hartford Hospital, the compassion of the nurses and nursing assistants, and the outstanding kindnesses of those special few who will always command a special place in our memories and hearts. Thank you!

Invite God to live in your heart, and He will be there every time you need Him. He has a plan for your life. It may hurt like the dickens when it comes time to play your role, and it may take a long time to understand why things had to happen, but trust in Him. He will never let you down.

In His service,

Lea and Larry

 

Woo Hoo! Things are really moving fast now! Lea felt better this morning. Her nausea wasn’t as pronounced as yesterday, and she was in much better spirits.

She had a little food for breakfast: maybe a tablespoon total of Cream of Wheat and oatmeal with milk and cranberry juice. Her nurse, Jamie, gave her some medications by mouth this morning! She didn’t want to take all of them by mouth for fear of getting nauseous again. So, some of her meds were given through the feeding tube.

 Although she felt a little anxious about getting sick after eating and taking the medications, she actually did quite well. Dr. Mah had said earlier that she would have a couple of rough days when she started eating again, and, once again, he seems to have been correct. She did quite well, today, and was feeling good after noon.

Her friends from Indiana left to fly home this morning, and she was really sad to see them go, but they got to meet Dr. Mah just before they left. But, she really had a good day, after a little bit of a tenuous start. PCA Domenica and nurse Sarah gave her a bath just before her 11:30 physical therapy session, and then she got her tracheostomy changed!

Rather than downsizing to a smaller plastic version, which allows use of the ventilator in an emergency, she got a much smaller metal tracheostomy with a plug! Her voice is much stronger now that she doesn’t have part of her breath escaping through the speech valve, and she is doing so well that she is no longer on oxygen. She can breathe more easily now, and appears to be doing much better overall since the change.

This evening she felt good enough to get in a cardiac recliner, and, as a surprise, her nurses, Jamie and Sarah and I whisked her off to the family lounge at the east end of the floor, where we had her food tray waiting on a table set by the floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the downtown area.

We turned off the lights so she could better see the city lit at night, and while the medical team left to do other things, I spoon-fed her a romantic dinner of hot chicken broth and cool, red Jello. (She chose not to have any of the chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, or green beans). Cheap date, huh?

Over one hundred days in the hospital! It has been a long journey, hasn’t it; full of twists and turns, tremendously soul shaking emotional highs and lows? As we are blessed with the opportunity to look back on this experience, we recall the many sleepless nights sitting by her bedside listening to a machine breathe for her, or tossing and turning in a nearby motel style bedroom too far from her to rest comfortably, knowing that no one is there to lay a loving hand on her brow if she stirs uneasily or begins to frown at some imagined concern.

Ten weeks of a drug induced coma allowed her body to focus its energy on healing; 30 surgeries to gain control over a devastating disease that had threatened to take her life day after day, downturn by downturn. The horribly excruciating hours of endless waiting outside the Intensive Care Unit while some mysterious “procedure” was being conducted in her room were nerve wracking. 

But, as I look back on where we were, and how far we have come, I am again, humbled by the outpouring of support you have given us, and the mercy God has graciously given us through miracle after miracle. I remember, so clearly, all the tears shed for her mourning that we might lose this wonderful example of God’s love and how He works in our lives. 

Praise God for His mercy whenever you tell this story. Proclaim the power of prayer, and how we have seen miracle after miracle worked in answer to our prayers. Glorify God for guiding the hands of the surgeons, and the guiding day-to-day decisions made by the medical team to bring miraculous healing to fruition.

Praise God for putting such loving caregivers at Lea’s bedside to help her through this horrible ordeal. Sing His praises, for He is a loving and benevolent Father who loves His children, and is constantly at work in their lives.

The day dawned drizzly and cool. The wind whipped red and yellow leaves high into the air and let them fall again to the damp pavement. It all sounded quite romantic, but I went from my room to the hospital via the double super secret underground tunnel. It was dryer, and a lot warmer that walking to the hospital out of doors!

Lea had a pretty rough night, and a rough day today. Her stomach was giving her fits early this morning, and it continued all through the day today. The nurses kept giving her small doses of medication to relieve her indigestion and anxiety, but mostly to no avail. Her blood pressure hit new highs up over 200+ today on several occasions, and her anxiety level was fairly constant.

The mid-level, or APRN, Kelly, worked with Lea’s medications throughout the day to try to help her get comfortable, but it appeared that the root of her problem is that her stomach can’t tolerate stomach acids, and makes her nauseous. When her stomach is constantly pumped, as it has been for the past three months, she seems able to get comfortable enough to rest. But, when we try to let her digestive system go to work, she gets sick.

She didn’t eat anything again today, and was again too ill to get out of bed into the cardiac chair. Her friends from Indiana who have been here since Monday have, unfortunately, been unable to spend much time with her. There have been a few times she felt good enough to visit for a little while, but largely we have had to go away and let her rest quietly.

Since we don’t have a lot of happy news to share about progress and improvement, I think this is a good time to share one of the messages that have been such encouragement for us. There are many wonderful testimonies we have received, but there are some that bear witness to what the Lord has been able to achieve through this difficult time. I’d like to share one of those with you.

Again, I have removed only names, and sometimes locations. The context remains the same. “My husband and I are some of those people praying for Lea and for you who have never met either of you.  Here in Houston and beyond there is a large group of people praying for Lea’s healing and for comfort and strength for you.

Praise the Lord that we can join together in the community of faith in Jesus Christ over the miles and make our pleas known to God.  And He is ever faithful.  (I picked up a little card in a Christian bookstore last Monday, a Pass It On message card, which says: “Trials are not enemies of faith but are opportunities to prove God’s faithfulness.”)

We cannot tell you how much your emails and the spiritual insight found in them have meant to us.  Your faith in God, and love for your dear wife, have shown through the emails you have written, proclaiming God’s faithfulness and witnessing to His grace.  This has been a true inspiration to us and we thank you for sharing your deepest thoughts in such a trying time.

We will continue to pray that the Lord will grant that miraculous healing we are waiting for, even more miraculous than what He has done so far, after all, all things are possible for the Creator who loves us so much.”  

That is a wonderful testimony, and helps us remember to give the glory to God. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. One of my cousins sent me the following story during the time Lea was in a drug-induced coma, and I hadn’t had any kind of response from her for months. It arrived at a time when I needed a little bolstering, and it gave me a great blessing. Here’s the story:

”It was a busy morning, approximately 8:30 am, when an elderly gentleman in his 80’s, arrived to have stitches removed from his thumb. He stated that he was in a hurry as he had an appointment at 9:00 am. I took his vital signs and had him take a seat, knowing it would be over an hour before someone would to able to see him. I saw him looking at his watch and decided, since I was not busy with another patient, I would evaluate his wound.

On exam it was well healed, so I talked to one of the doctors, got the needed supplies to remove his sutures and redress his wound. While taking care of his wound, we began to engage in conversation I asked him if he had a doctor’s appointment this morning, as he was in such a hurry. The gentleman told me no, that he needed to go to the nursing home to eat breakfast with his wife.

I then inquired as to her health. He told me that she had been there for a while and that she was a victim of Alzheimer Disease. As we talked, and I finished dressing his wound, I asked if she would be worried if he was a bit late. He replied that she no longer knew who he was, that she had not recognized him in five years now.

I was surprised, and asked him. “And you still go every morning, even though she doesn’t know who you are?” He smiled as he patted my hand and said, “She doesn’t know me, but I still know who she is.” I had to hold back tears as he left, I had goose bumps on my arm, and thought, “That is the kind of love I want in my life.” That is the kind of love Lea and I have been blessed with, and I thank God every day for putting her in my life.

And, by the way, I thank Lea every day for the strength she finds somewhere within herself to fight the daily battles to recover from this illness. She is amazing! She is a fighter, and she will overcome these little bumps in the road, with God’s help. He has blessed us so richly!

He is leading us through these trials, and I pray for His grace in our lives in the years ahead. As much as we will miss the friendships we have made here, I pray that we will soon be LEAving Hartford!!

In Christian love,
Larry

Lea had a good night last night until about two a.m. when she awoke with a touch of nausea. She asked to have her speech valve put back in, so she could talk, and asked the respiratory therapist to suction her lungs to make sure they are clear. They were.

Then she began talking about this being the day Lance is going home, and two of her friends from back home are flying in for a couple of days. She asked for her bath to be done early, so she could be ready in plenty of time, but worked herself up into such a state that her night nurse, Steve, had to give her a sedative.

She was awake when I arrived at six o’clock, and started getting all worked up again. She told me she wanted her bath, but she wanted it done quickly to get it done in plenty of time. I explained that we had at least four hours before anyone arrived, but she again worked herself up again and had to have a sedative to help her settle down.

She then got very cold. I covered her with a blanket, and made a cap for her head from a pair of washcloths. She continued to shiver. Her day nurse, Adam, turned up the heat in her room to “Unbearable,” and put another blanket on her. I HAD to take a picture, because Lea is always hot, never cold!  🙂

She still wasn’t feeling that well when Lance arrived, so after a fairly brief visit, he and I left for an hour or so to let her take a much needed nap. When we returned she seemed to be better, but was experiencing pain in her thigh where the skin was scraped off for the skin graft, and the vacuum pump on the stomach dressing was causing her discomfort.

Adam gave her a little medication to take the edge off without putting her back to sleep, and she and Lance were able to visit until time for him to catch his plane. He took my truck to the airport, hooked up with Lea’s friends who were arriving at about the time of his arrival, and they drove the truck back to the hospital.

Lance had a safe flight home, and got to talk to his mother by phone shortly thereafter. Lea had quite a surgical procedure this afternoon, when Dr. Mah and Dr. Ivy removed the vacuum pump from her abdominal wound and checked the skin graft. They reported that 95% of the skin is growing, which is wildly successful. The outlook is very good for the wound to be covered in healthy skin one day.

Dr. Mah also removed the drain from her abdomen! Another tube gone! The site of the drain will be closely watched for some time, as these sites often develop an infection about three weeks after the removal. Soon after, she was given a swallow test, and she was able to swallow many more items than before, and handled all but sticky foods or items with combined textures. She was able to swallow thin liquids, so the prohibition on those was lifted.

Her first request was for a tall, ice cold, glass of water. She still can’t gulp, but can sip all she wants to now. She is a pretty happy camper! This evening, at around six o’clock, Lea’s nurse Adam, Danielle and I started carrying personal effects from her ICU room to Step Down Unit #3, and shortly after that, moved her, as well! She was particularly happy with the move when she discovered a food tray waiting for her, and a bottle of her favorite cola on ice!

Adam helped the step down nurse, Julie, get Lea hooked up to the new room’s monitoring system, and Steve, her night nurse from last night, came in to see her and wish her well. By this time she was getting really tired, and asked for me to cover her up, and shut off the overhead lights.

After taping her Call Button to her gown, and getting other things arranged for her on her bed, we all took our leave and bid her a good night. We will pray this evening that God will watch over her and comfort her in the new setting, and that she will find restful sleep tonight to carry her closer to recovery tomorrow. 

There is no voice mail in the Step Down Unit, nor for the normal hospital rooms, so there will be no further updates via the phone messages. The attached photo shows Lea being set up in her new room. Nurse Julie is on the far left, Step Down Patient Care Assistant Dominica to her right, nurse Adam behind the head of her bed, and ICU Patient Care Assistant Danielle on the far right.
stepdown.jpg

Glory to God for His benevolence!

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:

For Dave
Praise: Lea
For Bill and Jane
For Megan
For Charlotte
For Marnita
Praise: Gary
Praise: fellowship
For Herb
Praise: Joe
For Lea
For Unnamed

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