This posting is more of a personal note than my normal research reports. Sometimes we read of modern miracles happening to other people, and marvel at God’s goodness. And then at other times we experience these same miracles ourselves, discovering that any words we use – like marvel, wonder and astonishment – all seem to be so inadequate. Still words are our only vehicle to share our experiences, and so we use them, however feebly.
My wife Kate entered the hospital in early November 2012 to have her right lower leg amputated due to the effects of long-term diabetes. The notion of an amputation was not extremely troubling to us and we both were somewhat prepared for it. In fact some doctors advised her 18 years ago to have it amputated then because of a diabetic syndrome called Charcot foot. She consulted with experts on diabetic podiatry at a university hospital and, as a result of their intervention, Kate was able to gain almost two more decades with the foot. So we were expecting this one day and were mentally prepared for it.
But along the way, both before and after the surgery, Kate had complication upon complication develop. She ended up spending 17 gut-wrenching days in ICU and on three occasions when I came home from the hospital in the evening I was fully expecting to be a widower by morning. The most difficult time came on Tuesday of Thanksgiving week, when the doctor gave me very grim news: her lungs were filling with fluid and she “might not make it.” He said that medical science appeared to have reached its limits of treatment and that now she needed either luck or divine intervention to survive. One day later I received even bleaker news from her pulmonologist: Kate’s lungs turned even more critical overnight. He said that she probably had Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). The only option was to put Kate on a ventilator for about 6 weeks, with a 50% chance of recovery. Given her very fragile condition I suspected she wouldn’t make it. I was devastated.
Yet I now know that God was at work behind the scenes, answering the prayers of so many people praying for Kate. Later the same day, Wednesday evening, Kate didn’t seem to be breathing under so much duress so I gained some hope. On Thursday morning, Thanksgiving Day, she was breathing so well that the respiratory team replaced the heavy CPAP mask with a simple, low-flow cannula. I saw the pulmonologist and asked him how she had been able to improve so rapidly in a day or two, from a grim ARDS diagnosis to now breathing rather easily. He said he didn’t understand it and couldn’t explain it on any medical basis. One day later Kate was taken off all oxygen and moved out of ICU to her own room. A few days later she was transferred to a bright, cheery rehabilitation hospital for two weeks of physical therapy. In mid-December, after 39 days in hospitals, she returned home as an early Christmas gift. A few days later she attended Bishop David Malloy’s Christmas party at the Diocese of Rockford, where she was able to meet many of the people that had been praying for her. (See photo above.)
Since coming home Kate has progressed well. A psychotherapist, she is now seeing clients in our home and pondering the meaning of all the events that happened. She has begun the process of getting fitted with a prosthetic leg. Kate’s goal is to walk our puppy this spring with her new leg, and I think she is going to make it.
I cannot explain how, in just a few days, Kate made the progress she did. Medically it just doesn’t make sense. In all honesty, I was stunned to the point of tears at this gift that we had received. The researcher in me is trying to understand it. Why us? Why now? I asked these questions of Fr. Dominic Grassi, author of several popular books on faith and spirituality. His advice was both simple and profound, “. . . accept it and savor it and let it unfold.” Such are the ways of our loving God.