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Lea once said to our adult children, “We are going to simplify, simplify, simplify!” We led very busy adult lives. She had been vice president of a national mortgage company, and supervised a large staff. I had operated a number of businesses over the years, sometimes two at a time. We had been homeowners for several decades, accumulating all the “stuff” that goes with it, served our communities through service in organizations such as Lions International, and operated a Victorian-era bed and breakfast. And, we had no idea how prophetic her words would become.

           Former Asher Walton House B&B

Asher G. Walton built our twelve room home as a private residence circa 1868. Possessing many examples of fine European craftsmanship, the hardwoods used throughout the home, and the Bavarian marble fireplaces added warmth and charm to the breakfast, parlor and drawing rooms. Victorian baths featured claw foot tubs. We loved the house, and the business, but took a break to vacation with friends in Prospect Harbor, Maine in 2005.

While returning home from that vacation, a thousand miles away on the East coast, Lea was struck down with necrotizing pancreatitis and spent six months in Hartford Hospital. Three of those months she was in a drug induced coma, and on a ventilator to keep her breathing. She had 32 debriding surgeries to remove dying tissue from her various organs, while her body was being filled with intravenous fluids to weaken the acids that were attacking her body. When she was brought out of the coma she had a hip-to-hip ventral hernia that could not be closed up, was atrophied due to loss of muscle mass, and had to learn to walk again through intensive physical therapy.

Practicing using stepsFriends and family stepped in back home to move much of our household goods into storage so the B&B could be sold to help cover our expenses. Her Mustang convertible was sold, my life’s savings were depleted, and her group life insurance exceeded her lifetime limit and would cover no more expenses. We had to fly home on a commercial airline with her still draining pancreatic fluids through her abdomen, and too weak to take more than a few steps at a time.

Family and friends arranged housing for us in an assisted living facility in a town near our former B&B, the town where our household goods were stored. After a few weeks of recovery, my brother and sister-in-law purchased a home they could rent to us on very liberal terms. I worked part time delivering career consulting via webinars for Lee Hecht Harrison, while Lea’s long term disability income started, as she had reached retirement during her hospital stay.  We gave our family truckloads of furnishings from the B&B that had been stored, and had a couple of garage sales to clear out even more.

Recipes for morecooking.netAbout a year later, we moved into a three bedroom single-story home with a modest lawn. Lea had recovered enough that she tried a little flower pot gardening on the rear deck, and we got to do some babysitting with our infant grandson, which really helped her regain a lot of her mental acuity as her motherly instincts kicked in. During 2008, we decided that a good mental exercise for her would be to publish our recipes as a Christmas gift for our families. She had dozens of recipes that we had used over the years. and still others were developed while we had the B&B.

We started cooking, double-checking accuracy of the recipes, and photographing the results. At first she needed quite a bit of help remembering procedures and processes, but eventually, the Lord strengthened her and opened a door for us to cook for fellowship dinners for 50 or more attending bible study and/or choir practice on Wednesday nights. The church had a nice, though modest, commercial kitchen adjacent to the fellowship hall, designed so that we could prepare and then serve meals through a large pass-through window.

http://morecooking.net

We had already published our recipes at http://morecooking. net for that Christmas in 2008, and now we had the opportunity to scale them up for 50 and 100 portions for large groups and publish those at http://cooking4groups.wordpress.com.  But, b the fall months of 2015 she began to have severe pain in her lower back/hip area, and we had to discontinue cooking for the church. In March of the following year she had a hip replaced, and during physical therapy for that, she began having severe pain in her lower back that made her uncomfortable while simply riding in the car.

Downsizing 2016Meanwhile, the house we were renting had been sold, and the closing/move-in date was approaching. We had decided that we were going to have to move into an apartment which would require less labor, and had arranged to have an estate sale the month before the new owner’s move-in date. The week before the estate sale was scheduled to be held, the auctioneer notified us that he was going to have to cancel, leaving us with very few options with the amount of time we had left!  Discussing our options, we found that less stressful was to donate almost all of our household goods to our church family. We held an open house for them, and let them carry away everything that we hadn’t tagged for use in the apartment or to be stored.

Lea’s pain continued to increase, and she gave up driving. Eventually, she couldn’t even ride in the car without suffering. She had to hold herself steady by grasping tightly onto the handgrip above her seat. Just going to the doctor wore her out, and all unnecessary road trips were from then on avoided. During an exam for her annual physical, the doctor determined that her gall bladder was causing a lot of the pain in the general area of the hip that had been replaced, and sent her to a specialist to see about having it removed.

Danielle, Lea and Chris outside Hartford Hospital, November 14, 2005

The surgeon determined that she could not have abdominal surgery, and that her gall bladder could not be removed, because of the surgeries and subsequent healing that resulted from the necrotizing pancreatitis. He felt that potential peritonitis leading to sepsis and septic shock was just too great. Two additional surgeons we consulted agreed.  So, she was prescribed a gall bladder medication that is rarely used today because of the simplicity of removing the gall bladder endoscopically.  She was told that she would just have to tolerate the pain.

As the medication started to take effect, she noticed that her left hip was hurting in much the same way the right hip had before it was replaced, so we went back to consult with that surgeon. He discovered, through an xray, that it was not her hip that was hurting her, but her lower spine. An subsequent exam revealed that the discs in her back were, in some cases, only 20% of their original thickness, compressing the nerves. She was in constant, debilitating, pain. After a few diagnostic visits to a spine specialist, she was given an ablation treatment to temporarily kill the nerves between some of the lower vertebrae. The treatment reduced her pain by about 70%, and was the greatest relief she had experienced in the past three years.

We are told that the treatment works for up to a year for some patients, but, for others, the nerves grow back more quickly.  We hope for the former, but realize that it is all part of God’s plans, and that he is using us for His purposes. We probably won’t know what those are until we arrive in heaven and have that “ah hah!” moment when it all becomes clear. Meanwhile, we give thanks to God for his provision and guidance, and submit ourselves to be used according to His will.

When we allow the Holy Spirit to enlighten our hearts to know the hope to which He has called us, we become better equipped to encourage our loved ones faith and spiritual growth. The apostle Paul, who, while a prisoner, said, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4 NIV). We submit ourselves to the Lord’s sovereign plan and tender mercies, trusting Him to be faithful. After all, He did it for us: “Simplify, simplify, simplify.”

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Hello friends and family,

I presume that most of you know by now that I have received a new heart. I went to surgery at about 1:00 AM on Friday, November 14th. They finished the surgery at 6:30 AM which was pretty fast. Everything went well, and continues to do so. I was in a chair most of the afternoon today. Sitting up was good but the transition from bed to chair was a little shaky.

My cardiac output numbers are much improved. I am off of some of the medicines and the Swan and arterial pic have been removed. Tonight they are weaning me off of the Milrinone that was being given to strengthen the heart’s contractions, and then tomorrow they will remove the external pacer. The doctors are very pleased with the progress. and I will probably be moved out of Cardiac Recovery into the stepdown unit tomorrow or Tuesday. They are targeting to send me home this coming Friday. Amazing!

I was totally surprised at how little pain I have experienced. No more than any other surgery for certain. Just thinking about getting a new heart one Friday and going home the next – WOW! They think that I received an excellent heart that will serve me well. I know nothing about the donor yet. They delay that information out of respect for the families, but encourage contact at a later time. I will definitely try to make contact.

My immune system is at it’s lowest right now and the doctors recommend that I have only immediate family visitors now and for the first couple weeks at home until I recover somewhat. I ask that you respect that and when you are ready to come see me, please call first. I’m sure I am not going anywhere for a little while so there will be plenty of time. I look forward to seeing many of you in the near future and I think you will be surprised how am doing. My family cannot get over it.

All of you who have supported and prayed for me have made a huge difference, and I thank you so much. I hope I will able to give some back in the future.

Thank you for being there for me.

Joe Stroup
Born 13-Feb-1947 and 14-Nov-2008

Praise to God! Our friend Joe Stroup is in surgery tonight, getting a new heart! He has been on the heart transplant wait list for months, his health deteriorating all the while. He reached a point five weeks ago that required him to be hopitalized until a suitable heart could be located for him. Four possible replacement organs have been passed up by his surgeons because there was something about each of them that didn’t seem to be just the right match. Finally, this afternoon he and his wife received word that a suitable replacement had been obtained, tested and approved. It was enroute when they received the message, and preparations were being made for his surgery.

He had time to dash off a quick email to his mailing list, which reads in part:

Hi everyone,

I said I would send an update this week after tests were done and I had more information. I pretty much am all better now. My temperatures are normal now and I have not been having any chills. They did a scope of my bladder yesterday just to make sure there were no cists or inflamation. Everything looks good. They replaced my Swan Tuesday evening and moved me back to 1A. We’re all set to go again.

This is going to be a short update, and I wanted to tell you that all of my nurses are so great, and I wanted to tell that because I’m going to be leaving them tonight. Dr. Walsh just left after letting me know that they have a good heart coming for me this evening. So thank Amy, Evon, Teresa, Tracy, Kim, Erica, Carolyn, Kathryn, Ann, Bonnie, David, Randy, Rob, Justin and Brett – I know I probably missed someone.

There is one other thing I want to tell you before I need to get off of here. Last week my granddaughter Ashlynn Nicole sent me an email telling me that she had had a dream, two nights in a row, that she came to visit me on November 14th but I wasn’t there and they told her I was in surgery. Since the heart will not be here until this evening, and the typical surgery time is 6 hours, my second birthday will likely be that day. God works in mysterious ways and through all peoples.

Wish me luck and thanks for the many prayers.

Love to all
Joe”

We grieve for the unfortunate family who lost a loved one in order for this heart to become available for Joe. I know it is not much consolation to them, but Joe is a wonderful man loved by his family and countless friends. Joe deserves a good heart, a fast recovery and return to the selfless service to others that has always been a hallmark of his personality. We wish him well in his surgery tonight, and look forward to excellent news of his recovery and return to health in the near future.

Lord, God, you know our hearts and desires, and that we lift Joe up for your blessings for good health because we believe him to be a worthy servant who still has much to do in Your service here with us. Please guide the hands of the doctors and surgeons and grant Joe a full and complete recovery. We also pray for the peace and comfort of the donor’s family, that they might see You glorified through their loved one’s passing into eternal life. Thy will be done. In the name of Jesus Christ, our savior, we give thanks. Amen.

UPDATE

Joe emerged from surgery at 6:27a.m. the following morning after what doctors called a routine heart transplant. The new heart was pumping strong, and there were no complications. Joe is expected to have a full recovery and return home soon with more energy and stamina than he has felt for many years. We thank God for blessing Joe and his family with an uneventful surgery, and pray that the recovery will be just as routine. Glory to God for His miraculous healing, and for guiding the surgeons as they perform these amazing procedures!

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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