Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Hope... Blessed Hope!

My Mom - officially named Rhonda and affectionately called Ru by her friends - is one Tough Cookie.  In April she was laid off from her corporate job at West Coast Bank.  Shortly after her layoff she had a total knee replacement.  Medical Professionals say this is one of the most painful surgeries to recover from.
celebrating Ru's birthday (between surgeries)
In May/June, her knee got infected.  Surgery Number Two was a wash out to try to save the prosthetic.  She spent five days in the hospital while they waited to see what the cultures grew.  She came home with an IV pumping antibiotics to her heart (a PICC line) for six weeks. The antibiotics killed the two strains of bacteria from the first infection, but not a third strain that she most likely picked up during her second hospital stay.

Back to the Operating Room she went.  This time to remove the entire prosthetic and put a temporary knee in its place.  Another PICC line.  Another six weeks of antibiotics.  Intense pain.  Daily migraines.  Nausea.  Dread of infection returning.

My Mom was honest about her journey.  She didn't shy away from her fears and frustration, her desperation and hopelessness.  She  walked through each emotion,  Then gave it to Jesus.  Every storm and trial, she persistently came back to the foot of the cross - rolling her burden off on her Savior and trusting Him to write her story.

After each surgery, Mom attacked her rehab.  Learning to bend and walk again.  Fighting through intense pain and lingering infection to regain some independence and a sense of purpose, even though she KNEW more surgery was likely.

The temporary knee is supposed to be non-weight bearing but the doctor let her try to walk on it.  And walk she did.  The doctor couldn't believe Ru's high tolerance for pain or her strong will.  Through it all, Ru clung to the hope that this awful journey might be nearing the end.  When the cultures came back infection free, they scheduled Surgery Number Four.

On December 12th she had a revision of the original surgery.  If all went well, this would be the beginning of the end.  No more PICC line or IV antibiotics.  Just one more long road to recovery.  Then back to adventuring like Ru does best.  When her nurse asked her what her post-surgery goal was Ru quipped, "Run a marathon by June."  She's not a runner, but I guarantee she'll be out hiking again by June if that knee would just get better.

Terry and I sat in the waiting room while she was in surgery, watching the clock move slowly around.  And around.  Past the time when the surgery should have been completed.  Another rotation of the hour hand.  Then another.  Finally the surgeon came out to meet with us.  The replacement had been a success.  But there was a complication.  He nicked an artery when he was inserting the prosthetic.  She lost blood and he repaired the artery.  It was a complication, but she should be fine.

But she wasn't.  Ru's blood pressure plummeted.  And wouldn't return to normal.  Within hours they transferred her to the Intensive Care Unit to keep a closer eye on her and begin blood transfusions.  I was scared.  Really scared.  We put out a call for prayer.  "Please, please, please.  Drop to your knees and pray for healing."

My mom and I spent the night together at the hospital, slowly watching that life-giving blood drip through her IV into her body.  When I left early that morning she was improved slightly, but still looked pretty bad.

After I left, healing began. Within hours, her color returned and her blood pressure stabilized.  By the time we returned to the hospital that evening she was a transformed woman - color in her cheeks, spunky and full of dumb jokes.  Ru was back!  Her surgeon discharged her from the ICU to home.  A miracle in the making.

Ru's recovery from this surgery has been so different from the other three.  It's supposed to be intensely painful but she has no pain and is off all her pain meds.  She's walking around, only using a cane for her outings.  More small miracles that we've been rejoicing over.

Troublesome signs of possible infection started showing up in the past couple days.  Two trips to the urgent care and many conversations with the advice nurse yielded no answers and increasing dread.  We clung desperately to a shred of hope that maybe this wasn't infection.  But the on-call orthopedic surgeon thought differently.

When Ru saw him yesterday he was very concerned.  A man of few words, he very succinctly told Ru and Terry that it appeared her knee was infected again.  He wanted to admit her to the hospital for overnight observation with probable surgery in the morning, but she wanted to go home.  He agreed to let her go as long as she came back to the hospital this morning, prepared to have surgery.   On Christmas Eve.

I lost it.  How much can one person endure?  How much can one body endure?  When would this journey end?  I was scared.  And my faith was shaken.  I knew intellectually that God could heal my Mom.  But if I'm honest, I didn't believe that He would.  I cried my eyes out and resigned myself to spending Christmas Eve in the hospital.

In God's perfect timing, a subplot was forming.  My mom's baby sister Sandi had planned a giant surprise.  Last week she bought a plane ticket to fly out for Christmas.  Only Sandi and Terry knew about it because we're all so bad at keeping surprises.

Sandi was in the air flying here when my mom was at the hospital so Terry recruited us as Secret Agents.  Curt picked Sandi up at the airport and brought her to our house.  I jumped in the car and chauffeured her to my Mom and Terry's.

On the way Sandi and I hatched a plan that would let me capture Mom's reaction.  I walked in the door unannounced and said, "Hi Mom.  I brought dinner.  But I have a little more in the car.  I'll be right back."  Then I got Sandi.

We videoed the surprise.  Sandi's shriek of "SURPRISE!  MERRY CHRISTMAS!" and my Mom's heartfelt, emotion-filled response.  (Click HERE to watch the video.)

It was the EXACT soul refreshing gift we all needed.  We cried together.  Laughed together.  Held each other.  Before I left, we prayed together, asking God to hear our pleas for total healing.  No infection.  No surgery.  Just Christmas together at home.

Ru, Sandi and me
This morning I woke with dread and a heavy weight on my shoulders.  "It's Christmas Eve and my Mom's going to have to have surgery.  Jesus help!  Please.  We need another miracle."

And then I got a text from Aunt Sandi.  I had to read it twice to comprehend what it meant.

 "Normal CRP.  Therefore, highly unlikely an infection.  Blood count is up since last week too.  Will still wait for cultures, but doesn't think she needs surgery.  Almost certain no infection - sounds 99.9% certain of no infection.  He was shocked to hear she does not need pain medication at this early stage.  His demeanor yesterday was far different - trying to be nice but not optimistic.  Today was far different.  He is certain there is no infection."

We got our Christmas miracle.  I still can't believe it.  Thank you to all of you who dropped to your knees and prayed when we asked.  Thank you Jesus for saying YES to healing my Mom.

We know the story isn't finished.  There may still be some twists and turns ahead.  But for today we have hope... blessed hope that does not disappoint.  And I am so grateful.
tattoos Curt and I got this year - the verb form of hope in Hebrew.
Merry Christmas!


  1. Jodi, thanks so much for sharing the ongoing story of your mom. You made me cry! I know this has been such a long hard path. It is good to see the hand of God in the midst of such difficulties, and it is such a blessing to hear how a dear woman of faith throws herself upon God's mercy and trusts Him through all the ups and downs. You are all in my heart. I will keep praying!
    Carol Barker

    1. Thank you Carol. I love that line "throws herself upon God's mercy and trusts Him through all the ups and downs."