Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Impact

The events of last year impacted my family profoundly, but out of everyone, I believe my 9 year old daughter was impacted the most.

 This is just the beginning of her story...

My daughter sang this song for us on Saturday, May 12th...

Tell me why, I don't understand.
Tell me why, or show me your hand.
Tell me why because I can't see my way through
What now...should I...do
The battle is not ours
We look to God above
For he will guide us safely through
and guard us with his love
I will not be afraid
I will not run and hide
For there is nothing I can't face
when God is at my side
No, there is nothing I can't face
when God is at my side

2 days later, she witnessed her mother's sudden death.

My husband did a phenomenal job of protecting my kids from the details of what was going on as it all happened. He fiercely protected them, and I am so thankful to him for being such a great father even in the midst of his own fear and grief. My now 7 year old still isn't quite sure what happened and is fairly blissfully ignorant (which I am thankful for). But my older daughter perceived that there was more than what she was told. In August, she came to me and grilled me with very pointed questions. So I gave her honest answers.

My Daughter: "Did you die?"

Me: "Yes.... for a few minutes. But remember you prayed for me in the garage? God hears you every time you talk to Him. He brought me back to life. You and Daddy prayed for a miracle, and God answered. Remember?"

My Daughter: "Yes we prayed hard. (Sister) wouldn't stop crying. Did it hurt to die?"

Me:  "No. I didn't feel anything. And when I woke up, I was very confused, but I felt so peaceful in my heart."

I pulled up a medical website and spent a long time showing her pictures of a heart and explaining to her medically what happened and how the doctors fixed the problem so it would never happen again.

One day, she opened up to me and said, "Mom, today in church we learned that God always keeps His promises. I know this is true, because He kept His promise to me." I was absent minded, half listening, and cooking dinner, so I muttered, "Hmmm? What promise was that?" I heard her say, "When we were praying for you, and you were going to the hospital, God told me everything was going to be ok. And He kept His promise to me."  My eyes shot up from the frying pan, and the air left my lungs. I said, "When did He tell you this?" She said, "In the garage when we were praying." A tear slipped down my cheek... God cared enough about her to reveal Himself to her in one of her most terrified moments.

Since then she has just loved learning everything she can about the God who revealed Himself to her and kept His word. Sometimes I find her on her bed reading her Bible. She talks about God all the time and cannot fathom why anyone would not believe that He exists. She has a very sensitive heart to the things she knows God cares about and is very active in our ministry to love the fatherless.

Last week she was in the car with my husband on the way to school and said, "Dad, you know when I first started believing God can do anything? When Mom came back to life." We've both told her that there will be days in her life when she won't understand what God is doing and why it seems to not make sense at all... but she can always look back and REMEMBER what God did for her and KNOW that He is always good and will always keep His promises.

What was meant to destroy... what was meant to annihilate her young life... God reversed into something amazing and is using it to build her into a woman of unshakable faith.

She's only 9, but watch out. This girl will grow up and change the world....

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Year That Almost Wasn't

God did not bring me back from death so I could spend my days sitting on the couch zoned out in front of the TV. The past 365 days I have really LIVED. And I am deeply grateful for every moment. My family could have faced this year without me, but by the grace of God, I was able to be here for every moment.

My baby girl's Kindergarten graduation 2 weeks after the hospital- I was there.

 My family reunion and Grandmother's 80th birthday. I was there.


I fell in love and got the incredible opportunity to love a boy who has gone far too many years without the love of a mother.

I got to feel the ocean breeze in my hair and the sun on my face and watch my family play.


I got to be here for many fun days at home, making cookies, and being a family.

I sent my girls off to the first day of school and told them how proud I was of them.


 My girls had a Mommy to help with their homework (except for math- I'm a disgrace at math)

My kids got to have both Mom and Dad at their School's "Parents Breakfasts!"

We had FUN!

LOTS OF FUN! (Don't worry- I got it cleared with my doctor)

God opened the door for me to join this amazing group of volunteers who impact the fatherless one child at a time. I love every one of them, and I love advocating for children alongside them every single day.

As a celebration of life and our first item on the "Bucket List," we hopped in the car one afternoon and drove 9 hours to Disney World simply to enjoy my favorite desserts at Boma! Most irrational... crazy... irresponsible... and emotionally healing thing I've ever done.

...And while we spent that weekend in Disney, I got the wonderful joy of gazing at my family and appreciating this beautiful life.

I got to be the tooth fairy :-)

 Would my girls have dressed up for Halloween had I not been here? I'm so glad I was here, and that they had a blast.

The kids got a year older and had birthdays- I was there.


Thanksgiving- I was there. And we gave thanks!!

I fell in love again. God placed a teenage girl in my arms who had lived without the love of a Mom and Dad for most of her life.

I woke up Christmas morning- my favorite day of the year. It was THE. MOST. AMAZING. CHRISTMAS. EVER. THE END.

The family God has blessed me with is a little bit unconventional for now. But I wouldn't trade it for the world.

My birthday came- And I was here for it.

My kids sang in church- and I was here to wave at them and clap wildly.

My daughter wanted her mom to help her with her doll hair salon- And I was there.

Easter morning- my girls told me all about how Jesus sacrificed Himself to save them and is alive again... and how they know this is true because He is alive and brought their mom back to life.

I was blown away on Easter when I was given the opportunity to rejoice with this woman who gave her life to Jesus... A woman who has the exact same name as the teenage girl who I hope will someday be my child. As I hugged her, God whispered to my spirit that someday I would be celebrating this moment again with my girl. I can't wait... these moments make life so beautiful.

After a rocky start to the school year due to post-trauma and anxiety, my daughter placed all her worries in the hands of God every night, hugged me every day, called me from the school office to say hello when she was worried, and then went on to skyrocket her grades to straight A's the second half of the year. 

I prayed for my aunt for 25 years, and I was so happy to be alive to see God answer my prayer. My aunt accepted Jesus as her savior, walked from death into AMAZING new life, was baptized, and I REJOICED.

I was alive to see another answered prayer... 3 years I have prayed for this mother and daughter. I got to see God redeem and transform, renew and restore, turn winter into spring, and make all things new.

And now we are waiting for God to bring our girl back to us.

365 extra amazing days with the man of my dreams...

But don't be fooled by all these smiling pictures. There have been dark days. Days of pain. Days of doubt. Times of emotion and confusion and frustration. But God walks beside me each and every day and is teaching me how to live a life without fear. He is teaching me how to love recklessly. He is showing me how to appreciate this beautiful life even in the mess... even when it's painful... even when there is heartbreak.

I am so thankful for this year that almost wasn't. For however many extra days God gives me here on earth, I intend to be FULLY ALIVE.

Friday, May 10, 2013

My Story

Next Tuesday will be one year. 365 days of amazing life. I should be dead right now, but God chose to bring me back in a miraculous way. This is my story.

On Monday, May 14, 2012 I collapsed on the floor in my home suddenly and without warning. My two young girls (ages 6 and 8) were home, but they did not know what was going on and wondered if I was just resting. My husband walked in the door after coming home from work to find me dead on the floor. I was without heartbeat or breath. My eyes were open, and I had turned a bluish shade of purple. Dinner was burning on the stove. He was completely certain he had lost me, and frantically dialed 911 while performing CPR. After a several minutes, a Fire/Rescue volunteer arrived and took over conducting CPR. My husband brought my two girls out to the garage to remove them from the situation, and the three of them began praying hard for a miracle. While they were praying in the garage, other paramedics arrived and eventually shocked me once with a defibrillator. They miraculously got back a heartbeat, and I was whisked away in the ambulance. My stepmother took the girls back to her house as my father and husband raced to the hospital.

In the ambulance I responded to the paramedics with eye blinks. They were able to “talk me through intubation” without the aid of sedatives while I was conscious, which the paramedic mentioned was unheard of. The ER nurse also relayed this same story and also stated it was amazing and unheard of because of how unnatural it is to have a tube inserted. Without sedatives, there would be a gag reflex or rejection of the tube. Somehow the paramedics were able to accomplish this, and everyone was amazed. When we relayed this whole story several months later to my cousin who is a nurse, she was shocked and declared that it was a miracle. 

When my husband and father got to the hospital, the ER doctor stated that my vitals were stabilized, but they were very concerned about brain damage. Based on the condition of the burned dinner on the stove and several other factors, it was estimated that I had been without oxygen or a heartbeat for somewhere between 6-8 minutes, and brain damage can occur after only 2-4 minutes. The doctors were extremely concerned about this, but the ER doctor told my husband that he was already praying for me and for God to intervene. 

Many of our friends and family were told what was happening, and those who were local descended on the ER waiting room. My mother and two of my friends hopped a flight from New England to get down here, my sister flew in from California, and my aunt and uncle drove up from Florida. News of my collapse spread like wildfire on social media, by phone, by email, and by word of mouth. People all over the community, the country, and even in many different countries began praying for a miracle. My family has reported that they’ve never seen anything like it before. Many thousands of people were reported as praying for me. An entire women’s conference paused their meeting to stop and pray for me. People called all their friends who dropped what they were doing to pray. Many networks of people that we are plugged in to around the country began praying. Popular bloggers posted urgent pleas to begin praying.  A year later, I am still running into complete strangers in my community and on social media who say to me, “I know you! I prayed for you!” It was a stunning outpouring that I still haven’t been able to wrap my mind around.

The doctor decided to cover me in a hyperbaric blanket for 36 hours to lower my body temperature to 92°F. The attending nurse explained to my husband that some studies had proven that reducing a person’s core body temperature after suffering trauma can help with the brain’s recovery; all the bodily systems move slower, don’t have to work as hard, and require less oxygen when the body is colder. They hooked me up to a ventilator to assist my breathing and eased me into a drug induced coma to try to help my body recover.

The 3 doctors assigned to my care gave my family a breakdown of their working theory of what had happened to me. They believed I had a heart condition called Long QT Syndrome. Long QT syndrome (LQTS) is an electrical heart rhythm disorder that can potentially cause fast, chaotic heartbeats. These rapid heartbeats may trigger a sudden fainting spell or seizure. In some cases, the heart may beat erratically for so long that it can cause sudden death. A person can be born with a genetic mutation that puts them at risk of long QT syndrome. The doctors believed my heart had gotten out of rhythm long enough and then misfired, hovered at an unsustainable 400 beats a minute, and suddenly gave out and stopped. Based on what had occurred, and what they know of this condition, they said it was a miracle I was still alive at that point, because I only had a 2% chance of survival. My heart doctor told me later that when he went home very late at night, he woke his wife out of bed to tell her about his patient who had inexplicably survived sudden death.

The plan for Tuesday and Wednesday was to keep me in the coma and gradually increase my body temperature while slowly weaning me off the sedative that would have kept me in the coma for 36 hours. They estimated it would take at least 12 hours for the sedative to leave my system. Then they could assess the extent of brain damage and whether I would even wake up at all. The plan was to begin this process Wednesday morning, and everyone involved urged my husband to go home and get some sleep, because nothing would happen until the next day.

When my husband woke up Wednesday morning, he called the hospital around 5:30am to check on me and let them know he was driving back over. The nurse told him that they were not sure how it was happening (since I was still heavily medicated with the coma sedatives), but I was waking up on my own despite the drugs that were meant to keep me in the coma. I was opening my eyes and responding to commands to squeeze the nurse’s hand and wiggle my toes. My husband rushed to the hospital.

The next hour was what my family describes as a miracle unfolding before their eyes. The medical staff wasn’t quite sure what to do with my unexplained awakening, so they started weaning me off the sedatives and decided to keep me intubated but take me off the ventilator. If I could breathe on my own for 60 minutes, they would remove the tubes. But I became so alert and able to breathe on my own within 10 minutes, they gave up and removed the tubes. Everyone was stunned by this miracle. Even though my brain had gone for much longer without oxygen than should be possible without serious damage to vital organs – sedatives couldn’t keep me asleep and breathing machines were almost immediately unnecessary. My ER doctor was not on duty that day, but he was called and told about what happened. He immediately called my husband and told him that it was a miracle, and that he was amazed and so happy for our family.

Over the course of the next days, they assessed that I had sustained ZERO brain damage. They implanted a cardiac pacemaker/defibrillator to ensure this would never happen again, and by Saturday, May 19th I was released from the hospital and headed home with no complications whatsoever (other than temporary short term memory loss caused by the sedatives).  To this day, I have no complications from the event other than that I have no memory of the day it happened and very little memory of the week in the hospital and the first week back home. 

I am a completely restored person, and I have treated every day for the last year as a gift to be lived to the fullest. I know that God has brought me back from death for a reason, and I choose to live each day with a passion to show His love to other people. Many people were amazed and rejoiced at this miracle a year ago, but as is the case with any amazing event, life has to go on. Our friends and family have returned to everyday life, and we talk about it less and less. But for me, it was life altering and changed the way I view and approach life. In my mind, every day that I am here is a day that I shouldn’t have been here. With a 2% chance of survival, the statistics show that I should be dead. So every day truly is a gift and an opportunity for me. I embrace life… even in the complications and messiness and struggle that is part of life… and I love every moment here on this earth.

Next week, on the one year anniversary of this event, I am setting out to honor the Fire rescue and EMT crew as well as the amazing doctors and nurses in the ER and ICU who gave me extraordinary professional care. We will thank them one by one and deliver thank you notes and heart shaped cookies and express our gratitude for the incredible work they did and to let them know that we will never forget the role they played. I also plan to show them a small album of pictures of what has been going on in our family this past year to show them what they have made possible. I think many people in the medical community only see the crisis and do not get the privilege of seeing the outcome of all their hard work after their patient leaves the hospital. I intend to show them and thank them for the past 365 days they helped to give me.

I intend to follow this up with 3 more blogs as we approach the one year anniversary on May 14. The first one will be about the impact this has had on my family and my children, and how God has used this for His glory. The second will be a recap of the amazing year I have had the privilege to experience! The third will have pictures of our big thank you celebration with the medical community next week!  I hope you will follow along my little blogging mini-series the next few days :-)