Tuesday, May 28, 2013

My Wife, Lazarus: No, really!

Early morning. January 3, 2011. My wife, Kendra, asked me to take her to an Urgent Care facility near our house. She was having difficulty breathing. A lot of difficulty.

Urgent Care sent us to the emergency room of a nearby hospital, suspecting that she had developed pneumonia.

Kendra was admitted and began breathing treatments. By the evening, it appeared as though she was starting to do better. We agreed that I would go home for the evening and take care of a few things at home.

An Unwelcome Surprise

When I arrived at the hospital the next morning, I expected to find Kendra doing well and possibly discussing what I believed would be a not-too-distant check-out. I could not have been more mistaken.

I entered the room to find her sitting up, bent over and struggling top breathe. There was a nurse in the room who told me that she had "a very rough night" and that they were getting ready to bring her to ICU. I asked a couple of questions that didn't get answered.

As the nurse left the room, I went to speak with Kendra. She could not talk. She could only nod to acknowledge my questions, and she seemed to have a problem doing even that.

"Do you want me to call the priest?" I asked.

Now, Kendra does not like "attention", and I fully expected to have to plead a bit with her about the urgency of the matter. Not this time. She immediately and emphatically nodded in the affirmative. The emphatically part scared me quite a bit.

Things began to happen fast. She was whisked to ICU. I was told that another doctor, a specialist, had been called in to take over. I was also told that the doctor "might intubate her". The "might" part was confusing to me and did not convey the full seriousness of the particular situation at hand.

Just outside of her ICU room, I confirmed via phone that Our pastor was just minutes from the hospital. Just as the call ended, I was introduced to that specialist I mentioned.

Physician, Be Profiled

He spoke very quickly and told me that he was indeed going to intubate Kendra. I'm sure he said more, but it was all a haze. I asked him how long before this had to happen, just as I saw a cart and a team of medical people entering her room. He glanced at them and then told me "Right now."

I told him that our priest was minutes away and asked if this could be delayed just for a bit. "No." he said.

Honestly, I "profiled" him. His obvious Middle-Eastern appearance and accent led me to believe that this just might be a case where he didn't "get it" or understand our Faith.

I guess he read that in my expression, because he put both hands on my shoulders, looked squarely at me and said, "We are going to do everything we can to save her."

Wait. What? This unexpected statement rushed around in my head multiple times, and I nearly fell down. I was not prepared to hear those words.


"Is it really that bad?", I asked. "Yes", he said, "It's really that bad. She has developed ARDS. Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome. I have to get started now."

Our pastor, Fr. Larry, met me in the ICU waiting room, and soon we were told that we could see Kendra. The doctor told me that Kendra had just been sedated so we had just a few minutes to see her. A tear formed in Kendra's eye as Fr. Larry gave her the Anointing of the Sick, and soon she was asleep.

A little later I asked the doctor how long she would be on the ventilator. I am the one who still didn't "get it". ARDS has a mortality rate of about 40%. For someone who already has other health complications (as Kendra does), that rate climbs to about 60%.

Her doctor's response was "If she is able to come off of the ventilator, we will not know for about a week, and that won't be the end of this either."

Like Lazarus

Throughout the day, many friends came by to visit. Kendra slept through all of them.

Very late that evening our parochial vicar, Fr. Vincent, came by. I explained what I could to him and told him that she was "completely out of it."

Fr. Vincent came closer to Kendra, opposite the side of the bed where I was standing. He looked down at her for a moment, raised his hand over her and said firmly, "Kendra, this is Father Vincent."

Immediately, and I mean immediately, Kendra thrust her arm upward and grabbed onto Fr. Vincent's hand.

We prayed for her, and I again saw a tear forming in her eye. Fr. Vincent spoke to her, and she acknowledged by shaking her head. He told her that she was going to be okay, and she nodded in the affirmative.

All this time, her eyes were still closed. And when he left the room that evening, she was again "out of it."

That "Lazarus moment" was extremely powerful in ways that I will not be able to convey here.

And much of what happened during this time belongs in my Vida la Vida series, but that will have to wait.

Oh, the ventilator? Kendra came off of it on the third day. She was home within a week.

She will always have certain complications, and we have to be more cautious with her overall health, but her recovery was really miraculous.

Even her doctor remarked to me that "she must have strong faith" and that he had "never seen anyone begin recovery from ARDS so quickly."

The risen Lord renews this mission ("In my name . . . they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.") and confirms it through the signs that the Church performs by invoking his name. These signs demonstrate in a special way that Jesus is truly "God who saves." (CCC 1507)

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