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Lea is undergoing surgery as I write this update from the cafeteria of Riverview Hospital, Noblesville, Indiana. We arrived at the hospital a few minutes before six this morning and Lea was soon whisked away to a surgical center room to be prepped for her scheduled 7:30 surgery.

She came back into the waiting room briefly a few minutes later with the new living will we had prepared last night, looking for folks to witness the document for her. Then she was gone again to her room. She was changed into one of those flattering green hospital gowns, and her clothing was stored in a clear plastic bag tucked under her bed. She received an IV for the anesthesia she would receive during surgery.

My mother joined me in the waiting room while Lea was being prepped, and we were allowed to visit Lea shortly after seven o’clock. She had a surgical stocking on her left leg, and hospital footies on both feet to keep them warm. There was a inflatable pressure cuff on her left calf that will hooked up to a pump after surgery to keep the blood moving in her leg as a precaution against blood clots.

Associate Pastor Larry O’Brien of Harbour Shores Church came to visit with us prior to surgery, and we shared some very pleasant time together and prayed for God’s loving hand in her treatment and recovery. The anesthesiologist slipped into the room at about seven thirty and discussed with us his proposed treatment for pain avoidance, and shortly after he left, Dr Cittadine came in to discuss the surgery.

Lea asked Dr Cittadine how many knee replacements he has done, and he said, “hundreds,” but that he hadn’t really kept count. She felt better after hearing of his extensive experience, and her anxiety level visibly dropped. You can’t help being anxious about surgery, even with all the experience Lea has had, and every bit of assurance is very comforting.

Her surgery is scheduled for 3-4 hours duration, and then she’ll be in recovery for about an hour. During recovery she’ll get a stocking and pressure cuff on the right leg, as well as bandages and the cooling apparatus to reduce swelling. I’ll be sure to get a photo, as I expect it to be quite impressive. She was taken to the operating theater at 7:51 AM, so we expect to see her again at about noon.

The hospital has a new surgical wing on the east side of the hospital, with views toward downtown Noblesville. The clock tower of the recently renovated Hamilton County Courthouse rises well above the thick rows of trees that line White River as it courses through downtown. Just outside the windows of the cafeteria, the hustle bustle of traffic entering and leaving the hospital’s parking area whizzes by. It has been very interesting to watch the hospital grow over the years, and now has become a five-star heart and vascular center.

The receptionist at the Surgery Center gave me a pager that allows me to move about the hospital freely. They will page me when Lea comes out of the operating room. It is also teriffic that the hospital provides internet access, which allows me to send and receive email and instant messages, and post updates to the blog. I plan to add at least one more post today, after Lea recovers and I have some news to pass on. Meanwhile, we are keeping the Instant Messages going to our Father, and are asking for the grace to accept His will, whatever that might be.

We have every reason to feel that Lea will do very well, and that her recovery will be challenging while rewarding. We are looking forward to expanding our ministry of God’s mighty works in her miraculous healing in, and since, Hartford, and feel that this knee replacement is going to make it possible for her to make great strides in achieving her role in His service.

Glory to God for His mighty works in our lives! Praise to Him for lifting us up time after time to tell the story of His glorious work through Lea’s illness. Thank you, Father, for our many blessings! Please keep Your hand in Lea’s surgical procedure today. Amen.

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What a blessing it is to be able to tell you of good news on Lea’s continually improving condition! We have just completed her most recent visit to Dr Miller, and gotten back excellent lab results on her blood work. She has gained a total of ten pounds since February, and is now back at her original weight. Even her cholesterol and triglycerides were normal!

This is wonderful news, since she will be undergoing surgery Wednesday morning to receive a total right knee replacement. While somewhat apprehensive, she is looking forward to being able to walk without a cane again, and being able to resume many of the activities she enjoys. She will, however, need to be aware that she will still have some limits in order to protect the artificial knee from undue wear.

I think one of the benefits we will receive from this surgery, is that she will be able to stand tall again, and that will help her feel a lot better about herself. It also will reduce a great deal of her pain, which should help her back off on more of the pain medication and consequently, regain more of her mental acuity. She will probably also feel better about not being able to have her stomach surgery to close her hernia.

Her diabetes is still very erratic with wild swings in the amount of medication she needs to bring it under control. So far we haven’t been able to distinguish a pattern of cause and effect. It appears to us that the pancreas may just simply not be working as well as it did for the first year after her discharge from Hartford Hospital.

We are looking forward to being able to return to the Rehabilitation Center for regular exercise after she recovers sufficiently from her procedure. I feel that all these factors will combine to help improve her morale, reduce her pain level, and let her return to a more normal level of activity. When that happens, her healing should also improve. Perhaps someday she will get strong enough to get her stomach closed up.

Dr Miller had me take a nuclear cardiac stress test this past week, just to make sure I am physically able to go through another hospitalization and recovery with Lea. The test results came back “very good,” so I guess we’re good to go. The doctor earlier had adjusted dosages on a couple of my medications to reduce fluid retention, and that also helped with the stress test.

I am so grateful for every single day I get to share with her I am constantly thanking God for letting her return to us. And, as I pray, my thoughts travel back to the caregivers we were so fortunate to have nursing her, and caring for both of us. I keep them, and caregivers everywhere, in my prayers.

I continue to be grateful to Dr Mah for the care and extraordinary attention he gave Lea during our days in Hartford. I hope Lea’s continuing recovery is a source of great satisfaction for him. He took special interest in her treatment during those difficult days, and we are reaping the rewards today. I thank God for putting us in the right place at the right time to have been a part of Dr Mah’s career, and beneficiaries of his medical acumen.

We have been attending services at Harbour Shores Church a few miles north of our home, and really enjoy the sermons delivered by the minister. We haven’t yet gotten active with a bible study group as yet. Those groups meet at the church during Sunday School hours, and it is still very difficult for Lea to be able to sit comfortably long enough to attend both the bible study and church services.

We are firm believers in the love our Father has for us, and that He is always at our sides. We know that He will always rescue us from every evil attack, and that He works in all things for the good of those who love Him. We also know that much of our ministry obligation is to simply get the word out about how He worked so miraculously in giving healing to Lea in the face of disaster after disaster.

Father, bless your name! Glory to You, Father, for the many workings of faith that You delivered through Lea’s illnesses. We ask You to bless our friends, relatives, and others who are reading this right now. Minister to their spirit at this very moment; help them be witnesses to Your love and power as You revealed it in Lea’s recovery. Where there is pain, Father, give them your peace and mercy. Where there is self-doubt, release a renewed confidence; where there is need, please fulfill those according to Your will. Bless their homes, families, finances, and protect them in their travels. In Jesus’ precious name, we pray. Amen.

So much for Aloha! Lea and I have often commented about how far this island is behind in making it relatively easy for a person in a wheelchair to get around. The Big Island is markedly poor. Few businesses are able to comply with the American Disabilities Act because each little space has been laboriously carved out of lava rock, and there is precious little space to spare, let alone any to dedicate to niceties.

Wheelchair access is of concern to us, because it is important to her mental recovery for her to be able to get out and mix with people and social environments. We try to go to restaurants so she can make meal selections, and we plan meals and shop so she can use those planning skills, and we like to visit with others so she can use her social and people skills. It’s all part of the recommended therapy for her eventual recovery.

I would have to say that the larger facilities such as resorts and theme restaurants that have been constructed in the past several years are largely compliant. However, they are often only minimally compliant. But, when it comes to the older commercial buildings, restaurants and shops, compliance is mostly non-existent. There are many stores, such as those in old Kailua-Kona, on the bay, that we just can’t access. So, we just don’t go into that area at all. We have accepted the condition as “quaint.”

Lea has been feeling much better lately, since her hip healed up, so we’ve been making little forays into some of the areas we have been wanting to visit. One of them I wrote about some time ago, when we went whale watching at Hapuna Beach, north of Kailua-Kona. It is a beautiful beach, and is ideal for boogie boarding and body surfing. During that trip we also noticed that the park had a nice handicapped parking area with a concrete ramp at least part way down to the beach. We thought at that time that we would come back if she recovered sufficiently and get our toes in the sand.

This past Saturday, March 10th, we had some friends, Bob & Billiann, from Indiana come for a visit. One of the things they wanted to do was go to the beach. So, we naturally thought of Hapuna. We parked in the handicapped parking area near the beach, and I wheeled Lea down the ramp and as far into the sand as I could, getting to a nice spot just a few yards from our SUV. The surf was up quite a bit, so boogie boarding was too rough, and the undercurrent was way too strong for body surfing. So, we just lay on the beach watching the waves for about half an hour, and decided to head out for some lunch.

When we returned to the SUV, it was unlocked! Our wallets were stolen, along with cash, credit cards, driver’s licenses, car keys, cell phones — all the items you leave behind that you don’t want to take to the beach. I used the beach lifeguard’s cell phone to call the Hawaii County police, and they arrived at the scene just over an hour later. They were quite thorough in taking our names, addresses, and listing all the items and contents that were taken, giving us a copy of the police report, and driving away without doing any searching or looking or questioning of anyone else.

But, that wasn’t the worst insult of the day. Bob had rented a car from Alamo here on the Big Island, and we stopped by their facility at the Kona Airport to let them know the car keys to their rental unit had been stolen. They charged Bob $400 to cut new keys for the car! We were outraged. It would be one thing, and perhaps justifiable, if he lost the keys, but to charge him like that when they were stolen is reprehensible!

It reminded me of our little episode with Hertz in Hartford CT when Lea got so sick and ultimately ended up in the hospital for 180 days. I was renting a car from them to drive back to Indiana after our friend Joe had a heart attack. After the paperwork was completed, I got in the car and drove to the other side of the parking lot to the truck where Lea was waiting. I found her so ill, doubled up on the back seat of the truck, she didn’t think she could drive, but, rather, needed to go to the hospital. I immediately took the car back to Hertz’s front door and turned it in, and they charged me $100! Hertz lost a long time Gold Club member that day, and I dare say Bob will never use Alamo again.

Meanwhile, we are going through all the motions and emotions of canceling credit cards, working on obtaining photo IDs so we can board an airplane in the next few days, and trying to get necessary things in place without upsetting Lea. She is maintaining a very delicate emotional balance through medication and we are both quite aware that she doesn’t handle stress well at all. In fact, she often naps to escape stressful situations. I think I may have to do a little closer reevaluation of those naps. I may need one myself!

By the way, the police told us that theft is very prevalent at all beaches, and that you should never leave anything in view in your car. These thieves have the professional tools to get in without breaking anything, and have polished their techniques so they can clean out a vehicle in less than 30 seconds, all without drawing attention to themselves. Heed this warning. Don’t be a victim.

Aloha.

I recently spent 180 consecutive days in the hospital caring for my wife, who had been stricken by necrotizing pancreatitis during vacation, 1000 miles from home. Lea was in a drug induced coma that physically paralyzed her for 78 days, while doctors performed over 30 surgical procedures on her. Statistically, she had a 15% chance of survival. After clinically dying four times, and being revived, she eventually recovered and was released to begin the long road to recovery.

During her illness I was able to explore just how important she has been to me in so many ways, as wife, friend and lover, and I was led to share my thoughts by email with family and a growing list of friends as her ordeal unfolded. I also grew much closer to God, as I drew on His strength and sovereign power to guide me through the trials and despair of each tortuous day.

But, it wasn’t until after the hospital stay was over, and a very feeble Lea started recovery, that I began to fully understand the lessons I had been given.  When we returned to the Midwest, we were led to attend a church new to us. We had planned to visit the church years before, but just never seemed to make it. Now, I felt led to visit there. As soon as Lea was strong enough to sit up for an hour at a time, we made our way to the morning service.

The minister was teaching from Hebrews chapter 12, where God’s discipline for His children is discussed. Over the next several weeks, I felt the sermon was being directed specifically at me, as the work the Lord had done in my life over the past few months was being revealed, and I came to understand my obligation to share my testimony with all who would listen. That’s really what this web site is all about; sharing that testimony.

Scripture is very clear that you cannot accept Christ and then just live any way you please. And, God, our heavenly Father, takes our obligation to serve Him seriously. Like earthly fathers, He often has to take action to protect us from ourselves. Sometimes that disciplinary action is harsh. Often it hurts . . .  a lot.

We need to understand, though, that when we are disciplined by a loving heavenly father it is not to discourage us, it is to encourage us. It is ALWAYS corrective, never meaningless!  God uses discipline to help His children grow in grace, and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that they might carry out their assigned personal ministries.

Proverbs 3:11-13 teaches: “My son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord, or loathe His reproof, for whom the Lord loves He reproves, even as a father, the son in whom he delights. How blessed is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding.”

Even when we sense God’s disciplining hand upon us we should be encouraged by this, for it shows that God is at work in our lives. Therefore, we should not lose heart or faint when being disciplined. God will never go too far in His discipline.

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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