Category Archives: Karla

Mike is 50!

Mike’s birthday is today, but he is in the Grand Tetons so I am hijacking the blog.  He won’t even know this exists until next Tuesday sometime.

Since he is not around, I would like to reflect on these 50 years he has been alive.  I do not really have any reflections on the first 20 years, as I did not know him.  I can comment on the pictures I have seen.  He has always been good looking!

The first time I ever saw him was in a Luther College chemistry class in September, 1984.  I sat in the front, and he did not, so I watched him walk by every day.  We did not meet until January of 1985, but chemistry is where I first noticed him.

This will probably not surprise many of you, but we met because I went up and introduced myself.  I wanted to meet him, and it hadn’t happened any other way!  He promptly forgot my name, but  I reminded him what it was when he went through my food service line at supper the next week.  I already knew what his name was long before I met him, so I had no such problems!

Finally meeting Mike was also good motivation to go to FCA, as he was one of the leaders.  I had several friends on my floor that had been pestering me to go to FCA all year.  I told them that I would go once if they would leave me alone.  I went.  And God grabbed hold of me a saved me that very first night!  They left me alone, but I kept going every Wednesday night.

By the end of March we were dating.  This time at his lead.  I may have been forward in introducing myself, but not in initiating the relationship.  I fell in love fast.  Mike was handsome, a strong leader, kind, a man of great integrity, friend of everyone, a great athlete, and most importantly, a passionate follower of Jesus.  I was whipped!  And when he proposed on February 13, 1986, I quickly said, “yes!” and began planning for our December wedding.  We were only 21 and 22 when we were married!

And thus began the journey we have been on together for almost 28 years.  Those character issues that drew me to Mike in the first place have only become more refined as we have gone through the fiery trials of life.  We went to grad school, were called to ministry, and eventually ended up back home in Iowa.  Mike has grown in his roles as a husband and father.  God gave me a good man to go through life with!

A person’s true character, and the depth of their faith in God, is revealed not in those times that are easy, but rather in times of suffering.  When we made our wedding vows so long ago, we, like most young people, thought mostly about the good, the plenty, and the health.  We never even imagined such things as depression rearing it’s ugly head time and again, a mother with early Alzheimer’s, losing an unborn baby, seizures, an AVM, brain surgery, heart surgery, long recovery, losing a job, or being out of ministry.  If people thought of these things before getting married, they never would!

As I look at my husband as he turns 50, I see a man who still has all the same qualities that I was initially drawn to.  But I also see a better man. I have watched as God refined him, refined us, over the past years.  I have seen Mike show compassion on our children as they go through difficulties that all children have growing up.  He is much more thoughtful in parenting than I am!  I have been with Mike as he ministers to countless people in ways no one but the people involved and God will ever know.  I have seen how Mike responds, or in many cases doesn’t respond, with grace during the hardships that come with being in ministry.  I have watched Mike battle through rehab after losing the use of his right side and losing his speech. During this past extremely difficult couple of years I have stood by Mike as he has sought God and worked diligently to honor Him in all he has said and done.  I know that I can always depend on Mike to encourage me, make me laugh, and be by my side no matter what happens.  And I know that he is grounded in his faith, always seeking to be changed to be more like Christ, and always pointing our family to honor God in all we do.

So happy number 50 Honey!  As I look toward the next 50, I am so hopeful!  God has continued to do such amazing things in our lives. The past year has been a good one for the Evans family.  God has renewed us and drawn us all closer together.  Not long ago, Mike shared with me a Steven Curtis Chapman song called The Glorious Unfolding that I now think of whenever I am concerned about the uncertainty of the future.  Here is a link if you would like to listen to it:

God has been faithful to us our entire lives, and will continue to be. It is with great anticipation that I wait to see what God has in store for us in the coming years!  And am so glad that Mike is still here to experience the future with me!  I love you, Mike!



(Karla’s) Real Time Reflections from Five Years Ago (#9)

Mike and Karla

February 26, 2014 (2009)

This is the ninth in a series of blog postings we are doing in real time plus five years post brain surgery. (click on the colored link to see a summary post Five Year Anniversary ).  Portions of these recollections will be included in the book I am currently in the process of writing. This is the day the music almost died.

(Karla writing)

Here are the posts from this day, five years ago.  If you take the time to read them, please notice how matter of fact and void of emotion they are.

Back to Surgery

Just a brief update.  Mike was up at 6 this morning and had a brief seizure.  This was followed by a longer seizure.  They gave as much ativan as they could and moved him back up to neuro ICU.  Somewhere in that process they discovered that his blood pressure was low and the heart was not working right.  The ultrasound showed blood clots in two parts of his heart and something else in a third.  They think that the filter may have broken loose and that is the unknown item.

I am posting this at about 11 a.m. on February 26th, and they have just taken him into surgery.  If it all goes routinely, it will be 4-6 hours long.  They will remove the clots, the other thing, and fix what they think is a hole in his heart, if need be.  The doctors use words like unstable, critical, and high risk.  Not good.  Our optimistic Dr. Fogleson said that this is an extremely serious situation.

We know that God has this entire situation in His control.  We ask that you would lift Mike and the surgeons up to our God, the father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Out of Surgery

These next posts will probably be brief and to the point.  You might wonder why I even bother.  One reason is that we have such a great number of people following this, and then praying.  The other reason is that now I just have to wait.  I might as well let others know what’s going on here.  The surgery went very well.  They were able to do everything they wanted to do.  They removed one very large clot and several smaller ones.  The filter is in place, so they do not know where the clots came from.  He had very low blood pressure for four hours, so there are concerns regarding the kidneys from that.

There is also now an issue with the head wound.  It looks infected today for the first time.  The neurosurgeons will aspirate it and may end up going in again and clean it out.  That may happen as soon as the cardiac people allow it.  Dr. Meyer is dumbfounded by all this and said that he has never seen anything like it.  He also commended the cardiac surgeon’s quick work, saying that if it had not been so fast Mike would be dead by now. On the positive side, the swelling in the brain is almost gone and all the blood from the AVM surgery is gone, which explains the great progress he was making in rehab.

He will be on the ventilator for about the next 24 hours.  After that they will wake him up and see how his neurological functioning is.  Between now and then we can just wait and pray.

As I read what I wrote five years ago, my words do not even come close to conveying what I was going through.  If brain surgery day was hard, and blood infection day harder, heart surgery day was off the charts hard and almost unbearable.  One of the things that I repeatedly told myself during this whole ordeal was that there were so many more people who had it worse.  So many more wives and children suffering more than we were.  So many more people in worse condition than Mike was.  Especially at Mayo. On this day, I truly felt that I had it about as bad as anyone in the world at that moment in time.  I didn’t stay in that thought long, but for awhile I was there.

I never really relayed all the events of that day.  Before I go into it all, as you read this, please don’t judge me.  You never know how you will react in a situation until you are in it.  As I have looked back over the past few years, there are some things that I have felt extremely bad, even guilty, about.  I shouldn’t have.  I didn’t do anything wrong.  In retrospect it just looks like rather bizarre behavior to me.

Some background on the events of that day. Mike had wanted me to go home to see the kids the night before because a storm was coming.  I had told him that I would not go home until he could push the button himself to call the nurse.  When you are in rehab, nurses try not to bug you all night long.  Once you are in bed for the night, they do not come in again until 7 in the morning unless you call.  Up to this point, Mike had not been able to push the button.  So when he woke up during the night and asked me to call the nurse because he wanted something for his back pain, I not so nicely said, “If you want me to go home tomorrow, push the button.”  He did, and took a single Tylenol for the back pain.  Yes, a storm was coming for sure!

My initial post said that Mike was up at 6 and had a brief seizure.  It seemed like an eternally long seizure, not brief.  And I don’t really know that it was short.  I know that they gave him 4 doses of ativan, which was all they could give him, so it was probably really quite long and he was basically just knocked out afterward.  Oh, and his heart quit beating and he wasn’t breathing.  I don’t really know if that in and of itself would stop a seizure, but I would think so.  After imploring the nurse to move more quickly, asking whether or not he was breathing, and the crash team coming in after she had called a code, I left.

At this point you may have a few questions.  I know what they are because several people asked me these questions.  “Why did you leave?  How long did they work on Mike before his heart started beating and he could breathe again?  What exactly did they do to him?”

This is where you need to not judge.  I know people who stay in the room when this sort of thing happens.  I know people who do not leave the side of the person who is in the hospital.  I am not that person.  I figured that the ten or so people who were in the room trying to figure out what was going on did not need a hyperventilating wife around.  Hyperventilating wives is not a normal occurrence in the rehab unit.  So once again I had no place to go.  Since every spare person was in my husband’s room, they sent me to the nurses’ break room to calm down.  I eventually came out.

I also have no idea how long they worked on Mike.  I do know that they did CPR and broke ribs in the process.  A couple years after the whole ordeal, we finally asked for more details.  Specifically, the doctors all kept saying, “Well they had to use pressors on you, which is very serious.”  We had no clue what these were.  After the fact we learned that pressors were used to keep Mike’s blood pressure up.  Due to the clots that were in his heart and lungs, he hardly had a blood pressure.  We now know that most doctors would use a couple pressors, and if that didn’t work, the person died.  The critical care doctor working on Mike used 5.  Five is an unheard of number of pressors to use.  Every doctor we saw for several days commented on what amazing work this critical care doctor did.  I don’t even know his name.  He had a South African accent, but I only met him once.  So all I really know is what they did worked, and they quickly moved him back to the neuro ICU to figure out what was going on.

In the midst of all this, I was trying to get ahold of someone to come stay with me.  The friend from Iowa who was there was getting ready and didn’t hear her phone ring.  I finally got ahold of Connie Krueger, who I was staying with, to see if she would come up.  She called Denae Harder, a college acquaintance who became a good friend, and they both came to the hospital, even as the snow was bearing down and Denae’s kids were home from school because of the storm.  I also had the pastor who our Iowa friend was staying with show up, as well as my pastor from my childhood who now lives in Rochester.  So we had small army to gather to hold me up through all this and to pray for my dear husband.

I also made several other phone calls.  To my parents, who said they would leave immediately.  My sister took the older boys in to Des Moines and they came up too.  The husband of the friend who was already up there with me came up, as well as my father-in-law and friends from church.  All in a terrible blizzard.  I was very grateful they all arrived safely!  I also called several friends who told me afterwards that I sounded like I was in shock.  I am sure that I was.  I don’t know how else you get through something like that.  I will say that my calls left many of them very concerned.  One friend who is a doctor could hardly make it through the day, crying out of concern for us.  Our pastor friends talked to doctors in their churches and were told that Mike would likely die.  One friend told me that she was rehearsing in her head what she would say to me when she saw me at Mike’s funeral.  Do those words hit you anywhere close to how they hit me?  Mike’s funeral. I have tears running down my cheeks now.

After I made these phone calls, I went back in to talk to the doctors.  They were all visibly shaken, which is not normal for these doctors even in bad situations.  They still did not know what was going on, and would let me know when they did.  By this time Denae and Connie had arrived and were listening with me.  Always good to have extra ears!  I was also very shaky and weak feeling.  So any guesses as to what I did next?  Again, don’t judge.  Yep, I went to the cafeteria and had breakfast.

My husband is literally dying, and I went to eat.  Who does this?  I can’t remember if someone suggested this to me, but that’s what I did.  And this is what I have felt guilty about for 5 years.  Why would I leave my dying husband for food?  Granted, it took care of the shakiness, but someone could have gotten me food.  I vaguely remember saying that I would go get it myself, but it still seems bizarre to me.  I attribute it to being in shock, and having reached the threshold of intensity that I could handle. So Denae and I went and had breakfast.  We weren’t gone long, and it was enough of a break for me to catch my breath for the next round of stress.

And it began again immediately.  Upon getting back, I found out that the doctors thought surgery was the best option.  There were two surgeons in the country who do the surgery Mike needed, and one of them “just happened” to be at Mayo.  He also “just happened” to be the surgeon on call that day.  And “just happened” to be between surgeries so he could operate on Mike.  Dr. Meyer came in with a surgical fellow that I could barely understand who explained what they planned to do.  He explained the risks involved, that if Mike survived the surgery, which was a big if, he could end up permanently paralyzed on the right side as he currently was, completely paralyzed, or even in a vegetative state.  They did not know how long he had been without oxygen or if the surgery would be successful.  They did know that his kidneys had shut down, which is the first in the order of organs that shut down when there is a lack of oxygen to the body. They needed my permission to do the surgery.  I asked Dr. Meyer what he thought and he said that Mike was young and they should do everything possible.  I then signed the long form without reading a word of it, something I never do.

After they left, I broke down.  I explained to my friends that before the brain surgery, Mike and I had talked about what I was supposed to do in a situation like this.  Well let me tell you, there is no such thing as “A situation like this.”  It is not a black and white issue, which is how I like issues to be.  Mike had told me that if a situation arose that would leave him in a vegetative state, I was not to pursue medical treatment.  I wondered out loud if that is what I had just done.  The pastor, who was the friend of a friend, Randy Charlton, gave excellent counsel.  He told me that Mike had never envisioned this situation and could not have known what he was asking of me.  He told me that Mike’s days were in God’s hands, which is exactly what Mike and I believe, and that it was up to God to take care of it.  If this was the day when Mike’s number of days were complete, God would take care of it.  So I was at peace with the decision that I had just made.  I then asked if I could have a minute with Mike before they took him to surgery.  They said to make it quick.

So I went in and laid hands on my husband and asked God to heal him.  And if he was not to be healed, please take him quickly and painlessly.  And then I left Mike in God’s hands, which is where he was whether I verbalized it or not.  I was very thankful for the small army that sat with me throughout the day and the group that arrived that night.

As you know, since Mike is still alive, the surgery was successful.  Mike is not upset with me for my bizarre behavior, and didn’t even know about till last week.  Once he was settled in his room by late afternoon, I was hungry again, so my parents took us to the Canadian Honker for supper.  Yes, once again, I know where I ate.  My parents, Luke and Benj, my sister Betsy and brother-in-law Brandon, and a friend from Iowa.  We had a brief respite from the stress and then back to the hospital we went.  I will say that it was hard to leave Mike there that night.  He was on a ventilator and looked like he was not alive.  There were two nurses monitoring him all night.  And my parents had gotten a couple hotel rooms across the street from the hospital, so I would be close.  I was able to sleep and be back there first thing the next morning.

I am worn out after writing this.  We have said it before, but it all feels so real to us still.  I remember things as I see them, so I can still see all these events unfolding in my mind.  The pain is different now, because of all we have been through since, but I understand it more.  It has shaped me and is a part of my life.  And now I can cry and move on.  Today Mike and I went out for lunch to celebrate five years of life that looked like it wasn’t going to be.  One of our kids asked why they didn’t get to celebrate too.  So we said we’ll do that this weekend.  I am so thankful that God miraculously spared Mike’s life and that we are where we are today!  I love you, honey!

Mike’s take on that day: An amazing mercy from God and an amazing wife! I love you too honey!

Real Time Reflections from Five Years Ago #2

Mike and Karla

As many of you know five years ago at this exact time our family was enduring the greatest trial of our collective lives. The idea came to me yesterday to write of the memories and experiences that I had during those days over these next 6 plus weeks (corresponding to the number of days we spent in Rochester) in real time plus five years.

Karla suggested that I write blog posts that correspond to these days as well. I thought that was a splendid idea and so over these next weeks I plan to write regularly on the blog. I plan to use some of the text from these real time updates in the book I am currently writing. This does not mean that I will necessarily be blogging every day but I will be writing every day and I will pass some of that along to all of you, if you are interested. This self challenge, call it a gimmick if you will, provides me with great motivation to write as I relive each of the days anyway. I have asked Karla to write some of these posts because it was her attention to the details that allows me to…well, get it right.

February 15, 2014 (2009 Sunday)

I remember this day because of all the chaos I created in the Intensive Care Unit by simply uttering three words. Karla tells it like this in her first posting on that day:

“We did have a bit of excitement this morning. Mike indicated that his chest was hurting, which was immediately followed by a pulse of 160 for a few seconds. That brings everyone running in the ICU. He then said, “My heart hurts.” He did not mean his physical heart, but rather his heart is heavy with all we are going through. I told him to quit being poetic, and never say that your heart hurts in the ICU unless it is physical! Needless to say, he had an EKG anyway and some follow-up. I am assuming tonight that we will hear it was just one of those blips in the process. He is talking more, but still quite worn out. You might be amazed at the number of medications he has been on. He has steroids to reduce the swelling, insulin because the steroids affect blood sugar (although he’s off this now), something to keep the blood pressure low, iv’s, antibiotics, and morphine when he needs it for pain. Whew!””
Karla was correct on both counts. First, I should have stopped trying to be poetic. I should have been more careful in choosing my words…but those were the words that I was feeling at the time, and so those were the words I used. And second, she was correct that I was simply feeling overwhelmed at the sheer weight of this trial and the toll it had taken, was then taking, and would in the future take on our family. Moreover I knew there was still plenty that could go wrong. Yet this was my golden opportunity to put the theology (study of God) which I had preached all these years into practice in a major way.
Since I was still having trouble with word finding I didn’t have the ability to communicate what I had really intended by those words. Oops. My bad. Funny bad, but my bad nonetheless. I had also not slept well at all the previous night with all the IV’s and monitors making all kinds of noises. Regardless, my heart was genuinely aching over these things to the point that my pulse jumped to 160 for a few moments. Such was the genuine ache of my heart from the costly seat of my humble and helpless position.
Dean Osborne from the church was also there and took those three words “my heart hurts” in what would turn out to be eerily prophetic as you will come to see in just eleven more days.
He wrote, “Last week wore many of us out both physically and emotionally, plus the little excitement this morning when Pastor said his heart hurt which had the medical staff rushing around and just about put me over the edge. I feared Pastor had thrown a clot or had a major bleed. After the dust settled I’m not sure Karla was as excited as she was last night about Pastor being able to talk, but that’s just an observation on my part.

This morning we brought church to Pastor Mike. Scripture reading from Psalm 95, followed by a few comments and prayer. I thought about singing, but Pastor’s had enough trauma for the week. At 1 A.M. this morning I woke and began to reflect on the week and was reminded of Psalm 139: 13-14 “For you formed my inward parts: you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works: my soul knows it very well.”

For 44 years, Pastor Mike’s brain has managed to navigate around his AVM, which turned out to be the size of a peach. Pastor Mike excelled at sports in High School and College in addition to his sharp mind. His brain’s ability to literally rewire the neurological pathways all took place without his knowledge or help. We are truly “fearfully and wonderfully made.”
Saturday night is also when the tick tock sound began in my head. At first I thought it was literally a clock or a metronome making the sound as the rhythm was about one time per second. I asked Karla if she could hear it and she said that she could not. Over the next days and weeks, even into June (remember now this is the middle of February) this sound would continue intermittently. No one could tell me why I was hearing these tick tock sounds until a follow up visit in June when Dr. Meyer explained that it was just the titanium plates settling into their place. Ok. Whatever. At first the sounds were continuous day and night. Over time they lessened in intensity and could even go away by the position I laid in my bed. However, the thought did occur to me that if I had to live with this tick-tock sound long term it would drive me certifiably mad. I could not imagine life like this. It also made me think with genuine empathy of those who are forced to live with relentless annoyances and continuous pain.
By this time I was also beginning to be very hungry and thirsty. After all, I hadn’t eaten a real meal now since Wednesday evening and it was now Saturday evening…but broth was a possibility for tomorrow (Monday) if I could pass the swallow test. Keep in mind that my body was half out. So right down the center of my body was the dividing line between function and non function. Therefore half of my esophagus and throat muscles were not working. The docs were concerned that the liquids might go right to my lungs and cause me to aspirate…so they gave me little pink sponges with a few drops of water every hour. Even though I was well hydrated because of the IV fluids I was so very thirsty!
Karla posted again on that Sunday which I thought should be included just to show how much bigger things are than what we can even imagine at any given time.
Karla wrote: “ I have been hanging out in the Mary Brigh 8D Family Waiting room, I have observed and met many families. These people are very kind and interested in what is going on with each other. I have had an opportunity to talk with several families about health crises they are facing.
I met one family whose son came home from high school on Wednesday to find his mother on the floor. She had a brain hemorrhage and was basically in the same condition as Mike was following surgery. Her husband and children shared the same frustration as I did with the lack of communication. They were excited to hear that Mike was talking, as he knows what it is like to not be able to communicate. I will be able to follow their journey as they have started a Caring Bridge site.
Another woman is here from Montana with her son who suffers from uncontrolled seizures. He currently has a grid on his brain to determine exactly where the seizures are coming from. They will then take out the part of his brain that is the problem. I told his mom today that people in my family have had seizures for the past 30 years and this was the first time I had ever prayed for someone to have a seizure. He had one this morning.
It has been good to be able to pray for others when I wake up in the night. Every family here is in a crisis situation, and some are trusting in God and others aren’t. You can certainly see the difference. I hope to be able to pass along a word of hope as I talk to these people. Our situation has certainly given me greater compassion for other people.”

Yep I agree honey…and empathy.


Real Time Reflections from Five Years Ago #1


As many of you know five years ago at this exact time our family was enduring the greatest trial of our collective lives. The idea came to me yesterday to write of the memories and experiences that I had during those days over these next 6 plus weeks (corresponding to the number of days we spent in Rochester) in real time plus five years.

Karla suggested that I write blog posts that correspond to these days as well. I thought that was a splendid idea and so over these next weeks I plan to write regularly on my blog. I plan to use some of the text from these real time updates in the book I am currently writing. This does not mean that I will necessarily be blogging every day but I will be writing every day and I will pass some of that along to all of you, if you are interested.  This self challenge, call it a gimmick if you will, provides me with great motivation to write as I relive each of the days anyway.

Each blog entry may include two or more days of actual time. If you’re not interested then I guess you can always do something else. It is a free world.

If you would like to receive these updates directly please subscribe to my blog following the simple  instructions on the home page of the blog and they will be sent directly to your email account.

I have asked Karla to write some of these blog postings as she was the one who wrote many of the updates in those early days after brain surgery and the massive complications that would follow. It was her attention to detail that enables me to tell the story with detail.

During those days I was conscious the memories I have are vivid and fresh. Here is my first entry that I wrote yesterday and today days one and two out from brain surgery.

February 13, 2014 (2009)

Reading Karla’s blog entry from this day I found out that during the evening (surgery was finished at 8:00 p.m. on the 12th) I was intubated (on the ventilator) but was occasionally brought out of the anesthesia for brief neurological checks.

I specifically recall the time where they brought me out of anesthesia for the neurological check when Karla was in the room. It was 8:00 a.m. (or so Karla tells me) twelve hours after the surgery. I remember briefly coming out of the fog for a few minutes. Karla was there in the room and I remember that being so very comforting for me. Having the person who loved me more than any other human being…and knew me better than anyone else was extraordinarily comforting. I remember well seeing her standing beside me, dressed nicely with a confidence exuding from her that gave a tremendous boost to my mood.

I held on to Karla’s hand for a couple of minutes with my left hand and squeezed it three times and she reciprocated, our private sign for 23 years that we love each other. The neurological checks showed that my right side was completely out and yet there was pain when they squeezed my toes and fingernails. And yet I couldn’t move at all. Nothing. The ventilator was still in so the anesthetist let me slip away again into unconsciousness. The doctors slowly weaned me off the ventilator and by 10:00 a.m. I was taken off the ventilator and breathing on my own.

Having been a biology major in college I understood the way the parasympathetic nervous system worked…in theory. The parasympathetic nervous system controls all of the involuntary actions necessary for life, like breathing and having one’s heart beat, along with other complex organ functioning without which properly functioning life would not be possible (e.g. kidneys, liver, digestive system, and all functions of the brain.

The sympathetic nervous system controls the voluntary actions like squeezing another’s hand for example, or speaking, or throwing a javelin. It was one thing to process these things in biology 21 at Luther College (Decorah, Iowa) in 1983 but it’s quite another to process something of this magnitude from the costly seat of a bed after just having had brain surgery.

In biology labs in college we pithed the brains of frogs, which meant that we stuck a probe into a frog’s head and moved it all around. Then we observed what they could and could not do. I have likened myself to a pithed frog more than once over these past five years.

I know that Dr. Meyer as the Head of the neurosurgery department at Mayo Clinic thought of his skills more highly than that. He had been able to use his brand new million dollar microscope during my surgery for the first time.

I remember being calm but somewhat fearful of what the future would hold even then. I also distinctly remember thinking to myself “What have I just done in allowing a man I barely know render me unable to move my right side or speak a single word. I was angry at Dr. Meyer for my current state, which was the worst case scenario he had painted for us.

Even worse,we were given no guarantees that either word return, and if either did return to what degree. We had been told that there might be some right side immobilization and also that speech might be affected. And so to come out of surgery with this worst case scenario upon us was but a gentle precursor of the things to come.

That first day after the surgery I was completely clear minded, with not so much as a headache. I processed all that was occurring around me and began to contemplate things that I, and so many of us take for granted. Namely, how is it that human speech occurs? How does one talk? How are words formed? I remember trying to speak but the words just wouldn’t and couldn’t come out.

I also thought to myself how is it that a person can even move? Prior to this precise moment I had lived my 44 years of life without fully appreciating the gift of being able to move at will. I think a partial paralysis without even the certainty that movement will return is to fully appreciate the gift of movement. Day one post surgery. No movement at all. And no speech.

From Karla’s blog entry that day: “I went i n periodically throughout the day, but had to leave if his blood pressure went too high. For some reason, it seemed to soar when I was in there. [editorial note: it still does (:]Shortly after noon they got him up in a chair…He smiles when he sees us and answers questions by squeezing my hand, so in spite of all the medication we are certainly seeing his personality. One of the nurses said to me, “He has a good sense of humor, doesn’t he?” So, he is obviously communicating with us. He is quite frustrated about the lack of movement and speech.”

Even then I began to think about the future. Would I be able to accept my life as it was, even if I never regained right side movement or speech? I couldn’t imagine my life without those things but I just tried to relax and rest and trust.

February 14, 2014 (2009)

This was the day that I spoke for the first time following the surgery. It was simultaneously fascinating and infuriating…frustrating beyond words that I could not speak.  In my mind I was saying words and talking with those who were around the bed, but all I could do was make motions with exactly one half of my body and become frustrated when they couldn’t understand my eloquent motions.

From Karla’s blog posting on Feb. 14, 2009 “We have just spent the day taking turns visiting with Mike today.  My parents brought the kids up yesterday and they all went in to see him today.  It was pretty emotional for him.  The girls were excited to give him the Valentine’s Day cards that they had made.

Probably the most frustrating thing for Mike is not being able to communicate.  It took us fifteen minutes to figure out what he was trying to say at one point.

A friend whose family is in the middle of a health crisis sent this verse to me and I shared it with Mike.  It really says exactly what I think Mike needs to do:  stand still and let the Lord fight for him.  “Moses said to the people: Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you and you shall hold your peace.”
Exodus 14:13-14

Later that day Karla posted the second most popular post on the blog as I spoke my first words. Her title was “PRAISE THE LORD! HE TALKED!”

“Yes, I know that all caps means I’m yelling, but that is pretty much what we were doing in the neuro ICU at Mayo Clinic at about 7:30 tonight. be honest, I was quite discouraged today.  Not because anything bad happened, but because it was so frustrating to not even be able to communicate.  When the neurosurgical resident stopped by late afternoon, Mike had said “one” and “two,” although not in a natural voice.

As my sister and brother-in-law were getting ready to leave, several of us were in the room.  Mike had been trying to do things like push the boots that prevent blood clots off of his right leg with his left leg.  My mom said, “If you are bored, did you ever consider watching T.V.?”  Mike then said, “Not really.”  It was hard to refrain from hootin’ and hollerin’ right there in ICU!”

[Mike’s note: I had been communicating and speaking in my mind all along as if I were a winsome and vital part of the conversations going on all around me. So it must have been that as I was relaxed and carrying on with those around me in my mind that those first words came out. The brain is amazing!]

“He then proceeded to say “international” as we were for some unknown reason discussing airports.  When I went in to tell him goodnight, I prayed with him.  At the end he held his arm up to indicate he was praising God.  I said, “Yes, praise the Lord,” to which he replied, “Praise the Lord.”  Enough said.”

Well that’s pretty much it for the first two days after surgery. Stay tuned for more posts. It gets way more exciting!