Fast forward to this past weekend when I was able to spend some quality time visiting with some dear friends of ours Billy and Sherri. When we moved to WV, Billy and Sherri were two of the first people we met as we quickly signed our little five year old up for pee-wee football (and before anyone comments on the dangers of signing a five year old up for football....it's WV guys, football sign ups are a requirement to continue living here:) and Billy was his coach. They probably don't realize it, but initial contact with them was just another sign to us that we had made the right decision by moving here. They were immediately added to our ever-growing list of over the top nice people we would eventually call our "football family'. But over the last few months, tragedy struck these guys as they found Billy fighting to survive in the hospital. Watching them go through this has kept our events so close to my heart these past few months.......
On a cold early December day in 2000, The Protector and I rode to the hospital for his outpatient procedure. The doctor had already assured us that this 45 minute procedure would be in and out, he could recoup over the weekend and be back in his business suit by Monday morning. That is why I laughed it off when we passed a hearse and a chill ran through The Protectors spine and he made some ridiculous comment regarding dying.
"Oh please," I scoffed at him, "I have been with you for over 8 years and have never seen you with so much as a cold, you will be fine!"
I was so convinced of this, that it never occurred to me to worry after an hour passed in the waiting room and no one had come to get me. When the second hour passed I naturally just assumed there had been a delay in the surgery. By hour three, people began leaving the waiting room to go see their loved ones and were replaced by new surgeries that were coming in. I tried to contact a nurse or anyone who could help me, but received no response. The day wore on until, after hour seven, I was the lone person in the waiting room when the surgeon finally arrived to tell me the simple explanation...the surgery had been a little more difficult than he had originally thought, and he finally had to stop, but my husband would have to spend the night and the procedure would be finished first thing the following morning. Naivety has always been one of my good or bad traits, depending on the situation...in this case, it didn't work so well in my favor.
I returned home to grab our six month old baby girl, K from the neighbors and we settled in so that I could start all over at the hospital in the morning. I arrived before the surgery because I most certainly wanted to see the Protector before he went in. To this day there are probably skid marks on that hospital room floor where I stopped upon laying eyes on my husband. The Macy's Thanksgiving Parade had been a short couple of weeks before, we had been there, but here lay my over the top healthy husband so swollen, that if I had tied a string to him, he surely would have floated all the way from Massachusetts back to NYC.
"He is fine," the doctor assured me, "he just has some fluid left over from the surgery, but we are going to take him back in and complete what we started yesterday." I did mention I can be naive right?
On the bright side, I didn't have to wait seven hours this time. On the not-so-bright side, he looked even worse when I was finally able to see him. Fourteen years later, it is difficult for me to recall certain specifics, I just remember next was the realization that his kidneys were not functioning, AT ALL. He had gone into complete renal failure. I called in his brother because at this point, I needed help figuring out what to do. What I didn't know then because I didn't really believe in God, but I do know now, is God was about to use The Protectors little brother in a big way. See, they were both businessmen at the time (these were my hubby's pre-Protector days), and his little brother JP had just had a BIG business meeting with the head of nephrology (kidney specialist - I didn't know what this was either at the time, and frankly, could have lived without learning a lot about a lot of things I was getting ready to learn about) at a major Boston hospital. So JP put in a call to this doctor while we waited for the hospital we were in to take care of our loved one....the problem was, they never did.
Hiccups. That is what was doing us in...renal failure and 24 hours straight of the hiccups. Who gets the hiccups for 24 hours straight????? Apparently someone whose pancreas has shut down gets the hiccups for 24 hours straight because that was what happened the next day. My gut told me something was really wrong..JP's gut was telling him the same thing..The Protectors gut was just saying "CAN SOMEONE STOP THESE HICCUPS ALREADY???" And yet, at some point, the hospital deemed him in good enough health to go home and come back for dialysis on a regular basis until....IF..his kidneys began working again. JP said no way. The doctor he was talking to in Boston wanted my husband transported by ambulance so that they could re-evaluate what might be going on with him.
At this point, all of my husbands many siblings and his parents were always at the hospital with me, and I couldn't keep pushing K off on the neighbors because I slept at the hospital every night. My parents lovingly flew to Boston to get her and took her back to Florida with them. We were without our baby girl for the first time in her little life, but honestly, I knew she was in good hands and I don't remember once having the time to even think about it. And my parents could not have gotten her a moment too soon...I headed to Boston, and on the radio came our wedding song, "You Are The Love of My Life" by Sammy Kershaw. I cried for the first time since the ordeal had started. I suppose I should have prayed or something, but it never crossed my mind.
We had traveled to a different hospital thinking this was just going to be a second opinion of all that had happened. Siblings went home for the night, I got as comfortable as possible in the hospital chair I would call home for another night (I know, who am I kidding right, there is ZERO comfort there!) and I began to relax a little, for one second maybe, before I heard "Babe?" at least I thought that was what I heard...I looked over at The Protector and he was holding his throat. He mouthed the words, "I CAN"T BREATHE" and his face was full of panic. At least when the pancreas shuts down, you get the hiccups as a clue. When the lungs stop working, there is only ONE horrible sign. In what was way too long for my liking, they got him in ICU and on life support, his entire body was shutting down and no one could tell us why. It was with great dread that I called my brother-in-law, who had just finally settled into bed himself, and told him he was going to have to come back to the hospital.
The days that follow all sort of blur together to me...teams of doctors were working on my husband, but no one had any answers, no one knew how to fix him. Days turned into weeks, we finally had out of state siblings fly in at the request of the doctors because it was not looking good at all. People kept telling me they were praying for him, and that they had other people praying for him, and I knew this was a kind gesture and I would nod my head and smile and say thank you. The ultimate prayer came from my father-in-law. Having already suffered the tragedy of losing two children, Grampy hit his knees and begged, "God, please don't take another one of my babies." But I am ashamed to say, even after hearing that, I never prayed at all.
Christmas was well on its way. It looked as though we were going to be stuck there forever, so I went to the corner CVS with one sister-in-law and we bought Christmas decorations and decorated his ICU room, even though he was unconscious and had no idea I was doing it. Snow storms came and went, but I never knew the difference as I stayed in that ICU or took occassional strolls around the hospital with a sister-in-law or two. And just when it seemed like it could go on forever, the doctors asked for a special meeting with JP and I because she knew we were the main two there in charge of my husbands care, even though previous doctor meetings had been briefings with the entire family. We included one other of my husbands other sisters in on this meeting because she was still at the hospital that evening.
"We have done everything we can." the doctor began, looking directly at me to be sure I was understanding her words, "We do not know what is causing this and we do not know how to heal your husband. Tomorrow, we will be taking him off of life support and it is our belief that he will not make it."
I honestly do not even remember what I thought. I literally went numb and can only remember that, as soon as the doctor walked out of the room, JP jumped up and yelled, "My brother is NOT GOING TO DIE."
I left them both and wondered the hospital until I found my favorite place to sit. A long bench perched in front of a wall made of glass. I came here often because I imagined it would be the Protectors favorite place to sit due to the fact that it awarded the perfect view of the Citgo sign and Fenway Park. The sun had almost completely set and I remember thinking what a beautiful view. Instantly I thought, who could have made such a gorgeous sight as the colors in that sunset, and I KNEW that it was God. And in an instant I knew how important all of those prayers were, and in an instant I knew I had to say one myself. I had never prayed before, so I did all I knew to do, I bargained.
"God, its me, if you will save my husband, I promise I will wash away the me of the past 8 years and be the best wife possible. Amen"
In an instant, I knew I believed.
| John 8:58
“Believe me,” said Jesus, “I am who I am long before Abraham was anything.” (MSG)
If you stay in ICU long enough, everyone sort of becomes like family, so it was with great sadness that I awoke the next morning to find out that the gentleman in the room next to ours had passed away. As I tried to comfort his wife at the elevator, JP suddenly rounded the corner, his arms lifted triumphantly in the air. Apparently they had tried to take The Protector off of life support while I was out of the room, and, as suddenly as he had stopped breathing, he began breathing all on his own.
We went home on New Years Eve, almost a full moth after the first out-patient procedure. Mom and Dad flew to Boston a few days later to bring K back home to us. It took weeks and weeks after that for him to fully recoup and return to a normal life. My life would never be normal again, for although I didn't commit my life to Christ after the harrowing events of that December, I saw Him for the first time, and I began what would become over the next two years, a walk that would save me from hard times yet to come. I had seen the mercy of God in a time when I didn't even believe in Him and His mercy changed my world forever!