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She spoke to me! Her words struck my heart and soul, and touched me way down in the depths of places I didn’t realize I had! Her first words to me were, “I need you to help me get out of this bed.” Oh, I know, it isn’t as romantic as “I love you,” but getting out of that bed is much more important to her than romance is at the moment. Besides, the “I love you” finally came later in the day. But, it sure was nice to hear!

The respiratory therapist, Jason, installed her Passy-Muir speaking valve at 8:30 this morning, and asked her to clear her throat, swallow once, cough deeply, and then say the word, “Hello.” She did all that, and very faintly, said the word. It was so soft I couldn’t hear her at the end of the bed, so I moved closer, and put my ear where I could hear her better, and asked her how she was doing. That’s when she began to let me know what she thinks. 

She told me that the hospital needs to give the nurses cell phones so they don’t have to page them over the unit’s P.A. system at night when she is trying to sleep, and that the nurses need to check the massaging air mattresses each day for tubes that leak and wipe the mattress down with alcohol to keep them clean. 

At 10:00 she was moved into a cardiac recliner, and sat in it beside her bed for four hours. She was off the ventilator from the time she got her speaking valve until 4:30 p.m. when she needed to get some rest, so Nurse Practitioner Debbie had respiratory therapy put her on the ventilator, with minimum support, so she could get some rest. The speaking valve was removed to put her on the ventilator, and that was the only time she quit talking! 

She had some other exciting things happen today, making this a really special day. She got to EAT!! Woo hoo!! Debbie told the speech therapist that she wanted to schedule a swallow test for Lea for tomorrow, or Monday. The therapist said that she wouldn’t recommend doing it before Monday, because the tracheostomy Lea has installed is too big for a person to be able to swallow around. So, Debbie spoon-fed Lea red Jello! Lea LOVED it! It was the best tasting thing she has EVER eaten, she said!

Perhaps even more importantly, she passed the swallow test! So, Debbie will press on to get Lea on solid food. Lea was willing to jump right in and help Debbie identify the kinds of foods she should have: “apple sauce, oatmeal, cream of wheat, and lots more red Jello.” She was just too funny! I don’t know whether she was light headed or not, but once she figured out how to breathe to maximize use of that speech valve, she was off and running! 

Later in the morning, my brother David came in, and Lea described some of the hallucinations she had, (which seem very real to her), and she is quite serious when she talks about them. She also bent Debbie’s ear this morning about her problem with sleeping. She stated that the sleeping pill they have been giving her puts her body to sleep but leaves her mind running even faster, and that she is just worn out, because people are in and out all night wanting this and doing that, turning the lights on and forgetting to turn them off. 

Debbie arranged to have a schedule posted for Lea that ensures she will get some sleep at night. She is not to be disturbed for any reason between midnight and six a.m., unless, of course, she is having a problem. The nurses will just look in on her, but not enter the room if they are not needed. Then, when I return at six in the morning I can wake her and bathe her to get the day started.

This afternoon Lea also got the lung cavity drain removed from her back. One more line gone! We just keep making little baby steps! Praise God! If she can get the rest she needs tonight, perhaps she will feel strong enough to make some progress on the physical exercises tomorrow. Hopefully, she’ll be able to go eight hours or more off the ventilator again tomorrow. Thanks for your good thoughts.
Lights out!

Dear Lord, I thank You for this wonderful day. I thank You for being able to see and to hear my darling this morning. We are truly blessed because You are a forgiving and understanding God. You have blessed us so richly, and we take so much for granted. Forgive me for not pleasing you. Forgive my weaknesses. Help me start each day with an improved attitude and renewed gratitude. Help me broaden my mind to hear your guidance in my life.

I know You constantly listen to my heart, and I ask for your protection from evil. Use me to do Your will, and bless me that I may be a blessing to others. Keep me strong that I may help the weak. Keep me uplifted that I may have words of encouragement for others. Please bless us with the peace of knowing that our final home will be with you, and accept our praise as humble thanks giving. Amen.

Lea was sleeping in again when I arrived at the hospital at 6:00 a.m. She was really only dozing, because I don’t think you ever really sleep in the hospital. All the interruptions keep you from getting any really restful slumber, so you just enter a fatigue- induced state of constant weariness, able to doze at a moment’s notice. Her eyes were greatly improved, with the bloodshot condition almost entirely gone, and her light sensitivity had cleared up. Nurses Liz and Nick got her out of bed into a reclining cardiac chair early in the morning, and she felt so comfortable there she promptly dozed off.

Naturally, as soon as she got good and settled, Dr. Mah came in to check her abdominal drain, and found that it was clogged and leaking. So, while she was in the chair he pulled the drain out about another inch and flushed the pocket it left behind with saline solution. He got a measurable amount of infection out of the drain pocket, and felt that it could have been the reason her white count has been going up for the last few days. We expect to see the white count drop in the next lab reports, since that infected area has been cleaned.

Lea was pretty tired when Dr. Mah finished, and was hoping to get a little rest, so, the therapists from physical therapy and occupational therapy appeared together and worked with her for about a half an hour. By then, she was clearly exhausted and ready to get back into bed.

She was resting comfortably when the team showed up about an hour and a half later for the bedside endoscopy examination of her stomach. The examination showed one area that was bleeding slightly, and the area was cauterized, which closed it up, and should end the bleeding. Her nurse, Liz, had taken a late lunch, after waiting quite a while for the equipment to arrive. Adam was covering for Liz when the doctor arrived to perform the procedure, and gave Lea a sedative to let her relax, and she rested most of the rest of the afternoon.

At about five o’clock Dr, Mah came in to change out her tracheostomy and fit her with one that will accommodate a speech valve. The procedure only took about fifteen minutes, and Lea was back resting comfortably half an hour later. The speech therapist is scheduled to come in at about 9:30 tomorrow morning to actually install the speech valve and train Lea how to use it. Hopefully, tomorrow she will be able to spend some time off the ventilator building up her lungs. She’s going to need lung strength to yell at me clear across the room! 

The rooms in the cardiac Intensive Care Unit are about sixteen feet square, with a utility tower in the back corner at the head of the bed. The tower is permanently installed and stands floor to ceiling. It contains connections for suction, oxygen delivery, electrical outlets, brackets for holding numerous medication drips and all the other devices and resources needed for life support.

As always, technology has advanced since the rooms were built, and the towers are being outdated. New self-supporting equipment stands on the floor around the bed. In Lea’s room there are currently two portable medication-drip towers, one on each side of the head of the bed.

The dolly is a stainless steel pole rising five feet from a six-wheel dolly, and holds half-dozen pumps that regulate the flow of liquids into the body. At the top of the stainless pole is an array of hooks that allow eight medications to be hung. A slotted track in the ceiling allows hanging of additional medications above the pole, and still have the flow regulated by the pumps. At one time Lea had twenty liquids flowing into her system!

The bedside ventilator is a portable free-standing computer with large touch screen control panel at about shoulder height, with an oversized battery back-up and pumps in the base, all mounted on a four-wheel dolly for portability. The machine has two flexible plastic hoses that deliver heated, moist air mixed with oxygen to the patient through the delivery tube, and collects anything the patient may cough up through the suction tube.

At one time Lea also had a dialysis machine bedside. It, too, was self-supporting, in that it used two connections to the patient to collect blood, filter it to remove unwanted matter carried in the blood, and then return the blood to the body. You may recall that this machine was used to remove renal poisons from the blood in the days before Lea’s kidneys restarted. It was later used to take some of the excess fluid off her body.

Additionally, the room contains a counter along one wall with base cabinets that hold supplies for the room-towels, washcloths, bed sheets, medical supplies and such. There are two sinks; one for medication preparation, and three feet away is another for hand washing. The room has a neutral color scheme-beige floors and walls with light maple wood trim. Windows on two walls look into adjoining ICU rooms and are always blocked by curtains. The outside wall has a large picture window with a view of Hartford south of the hospital.

The opposite end of the room faces the nurses’ station in the hall, and is enclosed by sliding glass doors. These doors are usually open as far as possible, to provide quick and easy access to a room when it is needed. Sometimes I close the glass doors and pull drapes across them when Lea needs rest, but most times all the noise of the ICU hustle bustle come crashing into the room.

With twelve patient rooms, there are usually around twelve or more medical team members around, including nurses and supervisors. But during the day there are also endless X-Rays, catscans, transports to the Operating Room and back, surgeons performing bedside procedures, resident physicians stopping by to check on patient progress, the guy who comes around to vacuum the ceiling vent, housekeeping to sweep the floor, the employee who empties the very noisy trash containers and removes the soiled linen from the hamper, maintenance folks who mop and wax the floor, the coffee vender, PA announcements, people stopping outside the door to chat, the lady who comes in to change the sterile bandage around the IV, another doctor comes in to check something else, respiratory therapy checks the ventilator and makes sure nothing is clogging up the valve in the throat . . . and, oh, by-the-way, it’s also time for another injection!

It wears ME out, and I’m not even a patient! 

Thank you again for your wonderful support as we continue to walk the path to recovery. Praise God for the many miracles He has given us to bring Lea to this point. I pray that He will continue to give her miraculous healing, and that He will return her to full health and happiness. Our next big obstacle is to get off the ventilator entirely. We will be doing multiple trials to get her weaned, which will happen as quickly as she can build up those lungs. She is very weak and fragile, but she is a strong fighter, and will make a great comeback. I’m betting on her!

Our friend Joe is back in the hospital in Indiana. It appears that the blood clot in his heart has finally dissolved and it is now safe to get him back into sinus rhythm. He will receive an electro-shock tomorrow to start his defibrillator, and get his heart beating properly. Please keep Joe in your prayers tomorrow, too, as he undergoes this procedure. May God’s hand rest upon your shoulder and provide peace and comfort.

In the grand scheme of things, I suppose today was a good day, although Lea was quite disappointed and frustrated that things didn’t go the way we hoped. She didn’t get her tracheostomy changed, which means we didn’t get the speaking valve. Again today we were told maybe tomorrow.

When I arrived at six this morning, Lea was sleeping soundly, with her feet sticking out over the side of the bed. Maria, the Patient Care Assistant, had allowed Lea to sit up on the side of her bed and dangle her legs for a few minutes last night while her back was being washed and the bandage changed around her chest drain.

Lea liked sitting up, although she had to be held in place, since she has no muscle tone to lift herself, balance, or keep herself from falling. We are beginning to do some minimal exercises to work on recovering her strength, and I continue to work on loosening up her joints by doing some of the physical therapy exercises we have been taught.

Sometime during the early morning hours this morning, someone sprayed something in the room that the fan blew into Lea’s eyes and caused significant irritation. Her eyes were bloodshot and very sensitive to light, and watered continuously until mid-afternoon. She was given antibiotic eye drops during the day, but she still couldn’t open her eyes until after dark, and even then couldn’t have lights on because it hurt her eyes and made them water.

We have asked her several times about the incident, but are unable to figure out who or what. Her writing is mostly unintelligible, and we can’t get her to mouth just one word; she wants to do whole sentences, and we can’t understand them. Sure will like getting that speaking valve in!

She went for the chest catscan at 9:00 this morning to check the air pocket around the lung. It was small enough that the specialist didn’t think it necessary to do anything with it, but they will continue to watch its effect on her lung function. The pocket may go away on its own. Many of them do. If it becomes a problem, they will vent it to atmosphere with a small drain tube.

She wasn’t able to get off the ventilator today. I think she just wasn’t in a very good humor because of everything that was going on, and she just went into a bit of a panic mode, breathing too fast whether she was on the vent or not. Perhaps tomorrow will be a better day, and she’ll be able to get off the vent for another trial. Another bump in the road.

Her white count was up, and she had a temperature of 101 degrees, so she may have a little infection returning. As a precaution, all of her IV lines were replaced and moved to the other arm, just to make sure none of them was bringing infection into the body. Hopefully, her lab work tonight will show an improvement.

Dr Mah decided that he wants to schedule the inspection of Lea’s stomach, since it is about the only remaining source of infection that hasn’t been examined, and he wants to know that it is okay before he starts her on solid food. The procedure is being scheduled for tomorrow as soon as it can be worked into the schedule. The procedure is performed by inserting a camera through a tube placed down the esophagus into the stomach. It is equipped with a stapler and a cauterizer so any problems can be repaired at that time.

She is completely off the Dilaudid now, which means that she isn’t getting any pain medication, unless she complains, in which case she will get an injection. She has been doing very well, and doesn’t often report pain, which means that she is getting off most medications that she has been receiving. She is still getting an insulin drip, is getting a Lasix drip to eliminate water build up, and today was receiving some antibiotics to counter the increased white count.

We keep being reminded that she is still in critical condition, and that even a simple procedure can be life threatening. Her condition is still quite delicate, and her physical stamina is very weak. We continue to observe all the procedures to maintain a sterile environment for her, and still work to keep her spirits up by giving her encouragement.

We appreciate your continued prayers and messages of love. The reading of your emails, egreetings, and greeting cards is a very important part of the therapy, and has continually given us an edge in gaining ground on the recovery process. We are getting close to turning the corner now, and once off the ventilator, I believe we’ll see her take great strides.

Lea had an exasperating day today, and was emotionally and physically worn out by late afternoon. She rested better last night than she has for the last few days, as she was given a sleeping dose at about 9:30, and was sleeping quite soundly an hour later. She had asked me to spend the night with her, but she was sleeping so soundly at 11:30 I decided to go back to the room to get a few hours of sleep myself.

I hoped I could get back to see her before she awakened, since the nurses thought she would probably not wake up until the hubbub of the day shift began at about 8:00 a.m. Well, she woke up at 3:00 a.m., and was quite alert, so her night nurse, Liz, gave her a bath and kept her occupied for a couple of hours.

But, Lea remembered that I was supposed to have stayed with her, so, when I arrived just before 6:00, I was already in the doghouse! She promptly took a nap upon my arrival, and dozed on and off until Dr. Mah arrived at about 8:00 to advise that he wanted to have an abdominal catscan done so he could determine how well the wound and pancreatic areas were healing up, and whether the drain tube could be pulled out a little farther.

Another of the drains, the stomach line, has been showing small traces of fresh blood for some time, and Dr. Mah said that a gastrointestinal specialist should probably take a look at the drained matter to see what concerns there might be. A dietitian also stopped by to meet Lea and get a look at her charts so she could begin planning a diet for her.

Right after the catscan, which was delayed, the GI doctor examined Lea and told her that there was enough bleeding that he wanted to do a procedure in which a camera is put down the throat into the stomach to locate the problem, and if necessary, the source of the bleeding can be cauterized. That upset Lea, because she didn’t even know a problem existed, and she got pretty apprehensive when the doctor said he would schedule the procedure for the next day. I wasn’t there for her to lean on for comfort, and her day nurse, Liz (a different one), spent about ten minutes talking to her, explaining the medical issue, and the procedure, and calmed her down.

During all this, the occupational therapy team arrived with a new system designed to help patients in Lea’s condition communicate. It is a small computer with touch keys and a mouse with which patients can control some aspects of their environment, such as raising and lowering the head of their bed, turning the fan and radio on and off remotely.

This is a new system the department just received, and Lea is the first patient to use it at this hospital. So, the occupational therapy team was pretty excited about it, and was quite enthusiastic about teaching Lea to use it. But, she was so tired by that time she really wasn’t able to concentrate much, although she understood how to utilize the system, and did play with it a bit later in the evening.

It took several hints to get the therapy team to leave, so Lea could rest. Dr. Mah came in while we were trying to shoo the therapists, and said that it was too late in the day to do the tracheostomy swap, and that he would plan to do it tomorrow, because we need enough time for the speech therapist to work with Lea in learning how to use the speaking valve.

He also stated that today’s catscan showed the bottom edge of an air pocket around the bottom of Lea’s left lung, and that he wanted to send her down for a chest catscan in the morning so he could get a better idea of what is going on. It’s possible that the lung was nicked during the drain installation procedure, and that air is leaking into the chest cavity and keeping the lung from expanding entirely. He doesn’t feel, however, that the air pocket is significant enough to keep her from getting off the ventilator. (She went four and a half hours off the ventilator today!)

Dr. Mah also stated that he was not going to authorize the procedure to look in Lea’s stomach. He said that it just isn’t necessary to worry about that small amount of bleeding, and that it can be handled with medications, rather than putting her through another invasive ordeal. She is so weak that even the smallest amount of activity exhausts her. We continue to do a few exercises each day to help her begin gaining back some of the lost muscle mass.

Meanwhile, she continues to make wonderful progress. There are the hourly and minute-to-minute problems that you have to deal with, but on a daily basis she continues to make excellent strides toward regaining use of her lungs, getting her digestive system back in order, and healing up that stomach wound. When you look at it on a weekly basis, it just is amazing. Nurses who take a week off are delighted when they come back and see how far along she has gotten.

It is at this point in healing that you can slip into becoming lax about praying for her, since it looks like she is well on her way to recovery. But, she is still in critical condition. A lot of things can still go very wrong. We still need God’s help in getting that miraculous healing that He has been delivering in delicious little slices to keep us very much aware that He is in control.

If we allow ourselves to take Lea’s healing for granted, and forget to give Him the glory, we might just find ourselves taking some big steps backward, just to bring us to the realization that Lea’s life, at this point, is a very fragile thing, and it can slip away at a moment’s notice, without warning. I pray for guidance, strength, and the wisdom to remember all of His blessings, large and small, numerous times throughout the day. Prayer isn’t just for nighttime any more!

Father, I ask You to bless my friends, relatives and those I care deeply for, who are reading this right now. Show them a new revelation of Your love and power. Holy Spirit, I ask You to minister to their spirit at this very moment. Where there is pain, give them Your peace and mercy. Where there is self-doubt, release a renewed confidence through Your grace. Where there is a need, I ask you to fulfill their needs. Bless their homes, families, finances, their goings and their
comings. In Jesus’ precious name. Amen.

Friends are a very rare jewel, indeed. They make you smile and encourage you to succeed. They lend an ear, they share a word of praise, and they open their hearts to us. Hold On To GOD Unchanging Hand. God Bless You

Lea completed her third consecutive 16-hour day of breathing on her own, with eight hours of overnight rest, today. She is handling the challenge to breathe on her own so well the ventilator was completely disconnected from her for 2 ½ hours this afternoon! She did very well, without tiring much at all, which indicates that she is very close to getting off the ventilator entirely. She will start doing eight-hour trials tomorrow, with rest on the ventilator in between, until she is able to go longer periods, and eventually come off life support entirely.

The staff plans to install a different tracheostomy equipped with a speaking valve tomorrow, and will begin working with her right away to train her to use it. That means that she is going to be able to talk, and set the record straight. I’m thinking I might call in sick tomorrow, because I may not want to hear what she has to say to me after all the wise cracks I’ve made while she couldn’t talk! 

We received some wonderful email messages relating to adjustment to others’ experiences with scars from surgeries. We read those this evening, and she seemed to listen closely, but didn’t really show any change in heart if there was any. I’m sure that kind of emotional blow will take a while to get over. I’ll help her as best I can, and hope that the skin graft will make a major improvement in what she has seen in the current wound.

I never thought much about how these letters would affect others until we started receiving those wonderful comments about how folks have forwarded them on to others they care about, and that folks we haven’t yet met have benefited from them. Below is one such letter from a cousin who tells of talking to a beloved aunt we have in common.

“. . . . I’ll tell you about our conversation yesterday. She asked me if I’d heard the wonderful news about Lea? I told her, “Yes! Isn’t it wonderful?” I told her how I had tears in my eyes when I read those first words the Lea was awake. She then went on to tell me what she thought of you & Lea.

I explained that I never really knew either of you well because I didn’t live close and didn’t grow up in Missouri. Until yesterday, I didn’t know that Lea was from Hannibal! She told me that Lea has a wonderful family and that they were very kind to her and (her adolescent daughter) when they were by themselves in Hannibal….often inviting them to share a meal.

We spoke about your obvious love and total devotion to Lea during your entire marriage and especially since she’s been ill. She said that it’s always been like that. A love that everyone around could witness from the very beginning. (She) said that you adored your wife and centered your life around her and the boys. That you had a gentle heart and a caring nature.

I smiled with pride as she was telling me this, because I felt exactly the same just from reading the daily email’s that I’ve received over the past 3 months. By her telling me this, it was proof that what I was reading wasn’t just someone who could write well….it was true!

Because of everything that you both have gone through, I remember more often to thank God for every tiny little blessing that I have. It’s oftentimes difficult being a single mom and dealing with ordinary issues without a partner. BUT…. at least my hope in so many things has been renewed because of both of you. Thank you for that! If you ever had the slightest doubt about what people thought of you, you shouldn’t ever.

Even though this has proven to be the greatest challenge of your lives, you have touched so many others. I look forward to when I can actually visit with you both and give you a big hug, because both of you are so deserving of love and thanks from us all. Please give Lea a hug from me and know that both of you are in my prayers.”

Thank you! Praise God for the many miracles He has worked in our lives as we traveled this difficult road together; you, us, and those loved ones to whom these messages have been forwarded. Lea is being healed, and to the glory of God, lives are being healed in so many ways in so many places. It is truly remarkable to experience, first hand, His love at work.

Lea remembered today that I had previously shown her the robe given to her by a friend last weekend. I had been showing it to her each morning, as though it was a new gift, to test how good her short-term memory was. Today, for the first time, she remembered that she had seen it, and from whom it had come. 🙂

One of the things that was really funny about the robe was that it was wrapped in a crème colored gift paper with pastel butterflies of all colors. The first time Lea saw the paper it was obvious that she liked it a whole lot, so I kept it, and made it a part of showing her the robe each day. Yesterday, I took a large piece of that paper and framed it, and now display the “picture” where she can see it.

Each morning I have been pulling a bedside table over her bed, and one at a time show her each of the gifts she has received, and I remind her of who sent each of them. It has been fun seeing her reactions to each of the gifts each day, but it is immeasurably more satisfying to realize that our Father has chosen to return her to us with all of her mental capacity. Glory to God!

His power is undeniable, and His goodness is manifest in the many miracles He has been working through Lea. I continue to pray for her miraculous healing as we enter many weeks of recovery and rehabilitation, and give Him my thanks for His mercy and blessings as He has brought Lea through her many trials.

Your support and prayers have richly blessed us during each of our daily struggles here, and I trust you have been blessed to some degree by what we have experienced. We have rejoiced as we received each email message that talked of someone getting closer to their family and other loved ones, and walking closer to God, as they followed Lea’s hour-by-hour battle for survival.

Lea is not out of the woods yet, but we definitely can see daylight ahead! It is the glow of God’s promise to love and protect His children, and the prayers you have provided for her have helped bring us to this point. Thank you! Lea is now going through a period of depression. She doesn’t want to exercise. She doesn’t want to smile. She doesn’t want anything good to enter her life right now. And, I have to say, I really can’t blame her.

She wanted to see her wound today during the dressing change. Not because she wanted to see what it was like, to confirm her suspicions that everybody should REALLY feel sorry for her, because it is HUGE, AND UGLY! So, we allowed her to see it for the first time, and she slipped into a deep, quiet period. I can understand her feeling of deep remorse. Her body is permanently disfigured, and we can never go back to where we were. She will come around in her own time. She just has to adjust.

But, it’s okay. In the end I am going to take her home with me, and I am going to love her as much as I possibly can, because we have been given some more time to be together. I’m going to make it as special as I can, and, I have a little secret that is going to help us through her psychological adjustment to that scar. It’s that discovery I made while she was asleep for so many weeks, and we were unsure whether medically “she” was still in that body.

The little revelation so many never experience: It isn’t the body I’m in love with; It’s the spirit that lives in that body that won my heart and has held it captive for so many years; the spirit that turns that smile on to brighten the day of all who see it; the spirit that has touched so many lives during her years prior to this illness, and has inspired these nightly letters of devotion that have reached the souls of so many folks around the globe. Praise God!

Some timely insight from a loved one in Christ: “I just wanted to take a moment and tell you . . . I too have had my tummy opened 2 times and those scars will heal. Not that you will never be the same, but you can cover it up and be thankful you are able to see it every day. God Bless all of you, I will continue to keep you in my prayers.”

Today was a down day for Lea, in that she decided to be depressed about her situation. She was very quiet about it, but she told me, when I questioned her about what was bothering her, that she “couldn’t move.” I don’t think that is what she meant; I think she meant that she doesn’t have full use of her limbs. And, just to prove it, she wouldn’t move them at all today.

Yesterday she was able to move her limbs much more than today, and when she was receiving physical therapy she was able to move pretty well, but she just wouldn’t move on her own at any other time. She wouldn’t attempt to squeeze an exercise ball, and wouldn’t give her frown muscles a break by smiling.  It was just one of those down days. She’s entitled, for sure.

She asked me to spend the night with her, but interacted with me as little as possible throughout the day. My brother observed that she had decided she was going to suffer, and I should have to suffer with her. Most of the time she had a grim frown planted on her face, and stared at a spot on the ceiling. When I talked to her I would position my face in front of hers, and she would look at me with a blank stare as though looking past me at something else.

She is depressed, and we knew she would have some of these days. I will spend the night with her, sleeping in a chair next to her bed, between visits from the nurse and the respiratory therapist. Tomorrow morning my brother is going to come sit with her while I go get some rest. I plan to wash her hair in the morning, as we usually do, but I think I’ll leave tomorrow’s bath to the day nurse.

Clinically she is doing very well. She has been breathing on her own, with minimal ventilator support, since Wednesday. If she can keep this pace she has set for herself, she will be on low enough ventilator support that a speaking valve can be installed, and she will be able to speak. Installation of that valve is tentatively planned for Monday afternoon!

Once that valve is in place, a “swallow study” will be conducted to see if she will be able to eat with the valve in place. She has already requested “red Jello”, so we’ll see how that goes. If she can tolerate eating, and her system can handle processing food again, we can be looking at the removal of the feeding tube and stomach pump in the very near future. That means the only tubes left would be the chest and abdomen drains and the IVs. Once those IVs are replaced by medications in solid form, and the drains are eliminated, she will have complete freedom once again.

Can you imagine what an awful road this would have been for someone who didn’t have his Father to lean on? Having felt the weight of the down days, and the tremendous highs followed by devastating lows in the same day, I can’t imagine anyone being able to handle it emotionally without the blessing of His peace. Your emails and other types of support were also extremely valuable in helping me through the bumps in the road, as well as the potholes that seemed like bottomless pits.

She doesn’t currently have any other real problems, other than her muscle weakness, and I’m sure tomorrow will be a little brighter. We will continue to encourage her to exercise, and will closely watch her other needs to make sure she gets the support she needs to continue moving forward. Thank you for your support, as always. I look forward to being able to report a better day tomorrow, full of her sunshine and dynamite smile!

It is just so amazing how far God has brought us in the past several weeks! It is difficult to believe that we have gone through so many emotional ups and downs! It has seemed like two years to me, but when you step back and look at it in context, it really is a very short period in a lifetime. There are soap operas that have run for generations, and yet you can start watching any day and get caught right up with what has been going on endlessly. Same plot, different players.

It seems to me that our lives are much like that. Same plots, different players. Read the bible, or other historical reference, and you will see the same storylines over and over. The difference in some stories is the way different people played the role, which affected the ending. Some endings are good, and some aren’t.

Like an actor, we have been given the gift of improvisation in playing the role of our life. You can play your role however you want to, and how you play your part will determine the results. You have guidelines to follow, but you have certain latitude to be creative, too. In your role you have to make decisions every moment about how we are going to play the role of your life.

I believe that God has a master plan for each of us, and that The Plan is like a script for a play. The Director knows, generally, how the play is going to end, but is willing to allow the actors the latitude to play the character the way they “feel” it. The way an actor interprets a role depends on a lot of factors, not the least of which is the background of experience that makes up much of that person’s perspective. Our actions also determine how we might influence others who observe how we conduct ourselves in solving challenges.

Lea has been awake now for only a few days, but is already enchanting the medical team here at the hospital with the way she approaches challenges. Her bubbly personality is helping her overcome the normal reactions of rejection, dejection, depression and anger that occur following a major surgery. She is hearing compliments on how good she looks so often that she is beginning to wonder just how bad she looked! J

She is beginning to get an inkling of what has transpired as she hears bits and pieces of conversation, and of course, I tell her the truth about anything she asks about. I have been telling her that her incision is not nearly as large as the bandage on her abdomen, which is true, but she got a sense of the wound size as the bandage was being changed, and she could tell that it is quite large.

She had a normal reaction of dejection, realizing that she will have a large scar. Unfortunately, not even the skin graft will hide the scar cosmetically, although it will reduce the discoloration. We had a conversation about the incision shortly after that bandage change, in which I told her that it just didn’t make any difference to me; I’m going to take her home anyway! She continues working on the ventilator . . . a work effort she started at 5:45 a.m. Wednesday, and has only required one 3-hour break! She is doing very, very well!

I am grateful to God for letting me have her back, and I am willing to accept whatever challenges the body gives us, just to get to be with that beautiful soul inside it for an additional period. What Lea has been through, and what she will have to humbly accept as permanent changes to her body, will continue to be sources of inspiration for many of us as, well as a testimony to the miracle of prayer. We will be very interested to see how her own testimony of her trial, which is really just now starting, begins to form and take shape.

We don’t always know how other lives are being affected by the results of our prayers, although in Lea’s case we have received many notes and comments. Mysteriously, perhaps, sometimes, negative results impact a large number of people in a positive manner. Praise God that, sometimes, as in Lea’s case, positive results can also impact a large number of people in a positive manner!

I consider my blessings to be innumerable and uncountable. Each time I look into Lea’s beautiful blue eyes, now, I see God smiling out at me, and I immediately feel humbled, and pray a sometimes silent, “Thank you!” I know that she isn’t completely healed yet, and that she could be taken away at any moment. But, I have felt such joy at her return, and experienced such an overwhelming love for our Father as a result of the walk we have taken together in the last few weeks, I know that He is sending us out from here to continue His mission.

I don’t know where we will go, or what we will do. I just know that He has prepared us to witness for the power of prayer, miraculous healing in His time, how to be open to learning the lessons He is teaching us, and how He can work miracles in so many lives through reaching into the compassion of believers and non-believers alike, who get caught up in the day-to- Day drama of a critical illness, and bring them a little closer to Him as a result.

Thank you for being one of those touched by Lea’s dilemma, and for your love and compassion during this journey. We couldn’t have made it without your prayers. Thank you for your well wishes now, they are truly treasured.

I could hardly tear myself away from Lea today, as she was even more alert than yesterday, and was interacting much more with everyone who came in to say hello. She is able to communicate when she wants something, and can also scribble, very badly, two or three words on a clipboard held up in front of her. Her hand still shakes too much to be able to write very well, and she is too weak to hold her hand up in the air long enough to write more than a few characters.

But, she is able to ask for water now when she gets thirsty, and she gets to have a few drops of water, or an ice chip, every once in a while, but nothing more. Her stomach has to be shriveled up to about the size of a walnut after all this time of inactivity. She also feels a little nauseous, but that seems to be a fake sensation rather than a real feeling.

Physical therapy stopped in today and worked with her for a few minutes to assess her physical condition. Generally, they said that she may be just a little better than they expected, although she is still really stiff in her legs and shoulders. The joints I have been working with all these weeks are pretty good, but those we haven’t been able to exercise are going to take some work. Therapy is scheduled in her bed three times per week.

Dr. Mah said today that she is neurologically okay, and a lot better than she was just two weeks ago. Her only remaining critical problem is her lungs, and she is making very good progress on the ventilator. He thinks once she works her way off the ventilator we will turn the corner, and be well on the way to recovery. He expects her to be able to get off the support within the next week.

She still has a tube in her chest draining fluid from around her left lung. That tube is about ready to come out, because it appears that she is going to be able to avoid fluid build up, since she has gotten rid of so much fluid in the past few days. She still has a drain in her abdomen, too, and that will be out in about a week, too, unless something unforeseen occurs.

There may be some pockets of fluid around the pancreas, but they are not presenting any problems right now, and may not be an issue at all. If they become a problem, a drain may need to be installed only long enough to drain off any fluid built up in the pockets.

Dr. Mah is going to schedule a “swallow study” to determine whether she is going to be able to eat and swallow properly. He said that we need to be careful here, because if she has any problems at all, it can affect her nutrition levels and eventually affect her health. The skin graft on the wound will probably be done next week if she doesn’t get ill between now and then. That means that we could be ready to get out of ICU within the next two weeks!

We have been so richly blessed throughout this entire ordeal, and have seen miracle after miracle worked in this hospital. It has been a blessing to see how lives have been changed by the power of prayer, and by a whole community of Christians scattered around the globe. Thank you for your wonderful support!

Lea had a terrific day today, as she continued to work to strengthen her lungs. She was very alert, and visited with lots of nurses and other staff members who stopped in to see her. Dr Mah came in early this morning to examine her and was quite pleased with her progress. He cautioned that Lea is still in critical condition, and still has some battles to fight, but stated that he continues to be optimistic that she will recover.

We are seeing instances of high blood pressure now that she is alert and is responding to external activities, and she needs a little medication to help with that from time to time. She, however, has been refusing pain medication that has been given in the past prior to turning her, or changing her dressing. She is controlling her reactions quite well, and is impressing everyone with her strength and courage (dare I say “determination”?)

She demonstrated some terrific progress this afternoon while I was away from the hospital doing my counseling sessions. She wrote notes to Dave and Dottie, using a pencil and paper on a clipboard! I just can’t find the words to praise God enough for the miraculous healing He has done in Lea, the strengthening of my faith in Him, and the opportunity to provide loving care for her during her time of need. This has been an extraordinary time in our lives, individually, and as a couple. I have a whole new area of respect for Lea after all these years together!

She hurts my feelings by getting frustrated when I can’t read her lips, and closes her eyes to shut me out. And, still, I have to admire her patience and calm in a very difficult situation. She has an inner strength and self-control that leaves me in awe of her. I’ve seen glimpses of it before, of course, but never under such extreme conditions, nor for such an extended period of time.

She is clearly out of “the drug-induced fog” now, and is lucid when she is awake. She enjoys visiting, and has good long-term memory, but now remembers that she doesn’t remember some things. For instance, she doesn’t remember that she had friends from home visit this past weekend or that one of them gave her a gift she really liked. So, I can give her that same gift every morning, and score points for the day, until she begins to remember from one day to the next!

Her biggest problems are physical, as her mental abilities are returning on schedule just as Dr. Mah thought they would. We are nearing the seven- Day mark of the “awake” state, and she is regaining more and more of her mental capacity. She is aware that she has some physical limitations, and she is already tackling weaknesses in her hands and fingers. We may get physical therapy involved in her treatment now that her swelling is nearly gone.

She got up in the cardiac chair for nearly three hours again today, for the second day this week, and is likely to repeat that activity each day the chair is available. This is the first time she was able to look out the window of her room and see the view of Hartford to the south. Working to get off the ventilator will continue from now until she can be weaned from it, or until she has another setback of some type that stalls her progress. (I’d just as soon not, thank you!)

Dr. Mah told Lea, during his visit this morning that she has been in the hospital for over two months now, and she just frowned and rolled her eyes in amazement, but didn’t ask any questions. He also told her that she is making “really great progress”, and that if she continues, we’ll be doing a skin graft on the wound next week. She accepted the information without a problem, and seems resigned to her situation.

I feel that she is making very good progress at this time, and if we don’t run into any more bumps in the road, she will be getting off the ventilator within the next week, and should be able to talk a little within the next few days. She is going to have to rebuild her vocal cords just as she is doing with her lungs right now.

She is really enjoying the emails and eGreetings of encouragement right now, although she isn’t quite sure what they mean. All of your well wishes are very deeply appreciated. I couldn’t have sustained the momentum by myself all these weeks. Your support and encouragement have been the key to fueling her drive to survive. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart for your kindnesses.

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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