(Karla’s) Real Time Reflections from Five Years Ago #10

The Wailing Wall
The Wailing Wall

(Karla) I’m back to blog on the events of the two days following Mike’s emergency open heart surgery.  Mostly they were days of waiting. Waiting to see if Mike could still move his left side, which had not been affected by the brain surgery (He was still entirely out on his right side).  Waiting for the medication to work that would raise his blood pressure so that he could get out of the cardiac ICU.  Waiting for tests to be done to be sure that everything was as it was supposed to be.

Waiting to see if bacteria grew in the fluid taken from his head wound, which would indicate infection and possibly lead to another surgery.  Waiting for Mike to wake up so I could tell him what had happened.  Waiting for the medication induced amnesia to wear off so that I could quit retelling Mike what had happened!

So what did I do during all of this waiting time?  Good question!  On these days I had a lot of family and friends around, which is a very good thing!  They kept the conversation going so that my mind was occupied.  I am one of those people who is always thinking about and analyzing everything.  At this point, I was wondering what was going to happen next to set us back, and thinking that surely we had finally hit bottom.  I was also wondering how we would have to change the house around to make it ready for Mike to come home.

I was also counting my blessings.  I was so glad that Luke and Benj had come up with my parents.  I was missing my children so much! It really showed me how much they loved their dad.  Those of you with children know that they all have different personalities.  Luke and Benj are pretty much opposites. When Luke was at Mayo the first time, he made it clear that he was not a fan of hospitals.  I get that, as I generally avoid them if at all possible as well.

On the other side of the coin, Benj is not bothered by them at all.  He is at ease when talking to people in the hospital, and does not mind all the gross stuff.  When I called home to tell them what had happened on Thursday morning, I asked to talk to Luke.  I made it clear that if he wanted to come up he could, but if he didn’t want to that was fine, that I would not think less of him or ever hold it against him. The fact that he came showed me how deeply he did care, even if he is not as emotive as some of our other children.

I also went over all the details that needed to be tended to.  I was responsible for so much, both in Rochester and at home.  It is truly a grace of God that nothing major fell through the cracks.  I was just reminded last fall by our band director that I had called and told him that Luke and Benj would not be at the jazz band contest that Saturday.  Luke was the only pianist and Benj was probably the 2nd chair trumpet that year.  It was Mr. Sletten’s first year of teaching and he responded so well!  He was a great encouragement to our family.

This is a paragraph from the evening post on February 27, 1009:

“I apparently did not get the gravity of the situation on Thursday morning.  I know blood clots in the heart and lungs are very dangerous and can be fatal, but I just figured, we know they are there, just remove them.  Dr. Fogleson was almost gleeful to see Mike today and said that he really did not think he would be seeing him today.  We are grateful that God chose to answer all of our prayers in the way we wanted Him to this time.”

I truly thought that it they should just take care of it.  If they couldn’t, who could?  I still attribute it to being in shock, as well as being the peace of God which passes all understanding.  Philippians 4:4-7 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.  Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

This did not hit me until sometime the following summer when I was reading a book by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  He says that the peace Christians feel in such circumstances is this special gift of God for handling hard situations.  Countless people had made our requests known to God.  Many of our friends had not had peace on the day of heart surgery, but I had.  So I see it that the shock was a gift of God.

On that Friday, Mike also had ultrasounds done of his arms and legs to check for new blood clots.  I have never really talked about what prompted this.  In the previous two weeks in the hospital, I had discovered that it was helpful to Mike for me to touch him when I was talking to him.  So as he came out of the heart surgery I did what I had been doing.  But this time when I rubbed his arm he became visibly upset and said that it hurt.  This was his “good” arm, and was very distressing to me.  I immediately told the nurse, and they ordered the ultrasound.  In the meantime, I asked anyone that went in there to please not touch him as for some reason he was in pain.  Not everyone listened.  So a word to those who are with people in crisis.  Please respect their wishes and do what they ask you to do.  They are the ones who know their loved one best and it is hard enough for them to do what needs to be done without others not heeding what they say.

My only comment from Saturday, is that it was more of the same.  More waiting, more explaining to Mike what had happened, and more coming to realize how close to death Mike had been.  None of the doctors thought he would survive.  That is quite unbelievable at a place like Mayo.

I don’t feel like I have adequately expressed the emotions of these days.  But our friend, Randy Anderson, did in comments he left on the blog.  I don’t normally like to compare myself to the most highly esteemed people in the Bible, but it really felt this bad.  So I’ll leave you with Randy’s words.

Dear Karla,

Reading the blog this past week has been a little like a guided bus tour of Job chapter 1 as relates to Mike’s body.

While he was yet speaking (while she was writing her blog) there came another and said,

Mike has had some small seizures.

While he was yet speaking (while she was writing her blog) there came another and said,

Mike has spiked a high fever — we don’t know why.

While he was yet speaking (while she was writing her blog, there came another and said,

Mike has contracted an infection in his blood we don’t know from where.

While he was yet speaking (while she was writing her blog) there came another and said,

Mike has a blood clot in his leg.

While he was yet speaking (while she was writing her blog) there came another and said,

Mike has coded and is being prepped for heart surgery.

While he was yet speaking (while she was writing her blog) there came another and said,

The heart surgery went well but…..

Karla, my brother passed through these kinds of days with his son 16 years ago now. He was telling Mike about it while we traveled to T4G (Together For the Gospel Conference) this past spring. In the midst of it while standing outside of Children’s hospital screaming at God whether out loud or merely in his mind he doesn’t really remember, he and his wife’s ‘life verse’ — when they were in high school you had to have a ‘life verse’ and so they had one — but it came to him with power.

Proverbs 3:5-6 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and DO NOT LEAN ON YOUR OWN UNDERSTANDING 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

My brother heard the Lord say to him through that text– you are so distressed because you are bent on figuring out what all of this is about — well, you can’t, and I told you not to — I told you not to lean on your own understanding — I told you not to try figure it all out. Rather I told you to trust me with all your heart.

Remember this Karla, ‘He did not spare His own Son but delivered Him up for you and for Mike…’

You can trust Him with all your heart and be safe in Him without understanding why any of this is happening.

Shirley and I love you both.


Mike’s take on those two days:

Karla wrote in part: “…Mike still doesn’t know what happened.  He is not going to believe this one!  I am feeling bad for Dr. Meyer (Mike’s neuro-surgeon).  He came in and just shook his head.  He said that he has never seen anything like this…”

“Dr. Fogleson (the surgical fellow) was almost gleeful to see Mike today and said that he really did not think he would be seeing him today.  We are grateful that God chose to answer all of our prayers in the way we wanted Him to this time. Dr. Fogleson is the doctor we see most often.  If anything happens and he is near, he is there immediately.  We have repeatedly made it clear that many people are praying for him as well when they pray for Mike.  Today he said that he has even prayed for Mike. 

Dr. Meyer commented that if we had taken him home for rehab he wouldn’t have survived.  Then later the nurse said that in any other situation he would have died.  He told us that Dr. Sundt specializes in this kind of surgery and he “just happened” to be on call Thursday.  We all know that he did not just happen to be on call… Dr. Meyer said that he expects this to set him back 2-3 weeks neurologically, so basically back to where he was immediately following AVM surgery…I should probably show a timeline of what happened so that people can see all that God did.  I’ll work on that sometime.  For now, suffice it to say, all of our days are numbered before one of them came to be, and Mike’s days are not up yet.

Mike’s take on those two days:

I really have no vivid memories from the two days following the emergency open heart surgery, just a brief moment as they brought me out of the anesthesia for a neurological check with the ventilator still in. It was creepy.   I would have to say that the amnesia drug they gave me did its job…very well. But even as I was unconscious and very near to death God still managed to micromanage the entire universe. I am also coming to understand and appreciate much more deeply the toll this trial took on Karla as we are “reliving” these days in real time plus five years.


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