“With man this is impossible, but with God
all things are possible.”
On Thursday, October 16, 2003, I received a phone call from my sister, Deanna, in Hawaii. At the time, I was at work at Zale Lipshy Hospital in Dallas, Texas. My sister sounded hysterical and said that my mom was at the
hospital dying. My heart sank and I asked my sister to tell me what happened. My sister, who is a nurse, mentioned an ‘aortic dissection’ and that my mom had to be taken to the emergency room. As a physician, I knew aortic dissections were often fatal. Later, when I found out the magnitude of the dissection, I lost most, if not all hope, that my mom would ever survive. I called my twin brother, Desi, who is also a physician, in New
Jersey. As usual, loudly singing at the top of his voice, Desi picked up my phone call. I quickly interrupted him and told him what happened. His mood changed from joyful to dramatic. I told him about our mom’s grave condition and reassured him that everything would be okay. We discussed making travel plans to fly back home to Hawaii.
Later that night, I started packing my suitcase, not knowing what I would find when I got back home to Hawaii. I called Kelly Gardiner, a good friend of mine and told her about my mom’s grave condition. She stopped by my
place to offer a listening ear and we joined each other in prayer. We read through some Scriptures and asked God to be there in those troubling times. After Kelly left, I took a shower and heard my mom’s voice speak to me. My mom said, “Boy, don’t forget the letter.” I thought to myself, “What etter?” Then I recalled the letter my mom wrote to me when she visited me in Dallas last year. I stored the letter somewhere in my closet. After my
shower, I found the letter and placed it into my half-packed suitcase and went to bed. I did not sleep very well that night.
The next morning, I found myself at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport boarding an American Airlines flight to Honolulu, Hawaii. On the plane, I prayed so hard to God and asked him to just keep my mom alive long enough so that Desi and I could say goodbye to her. Little did I know what the Lord had planned for me and my family. A few years ago, I gave my life to Jesus Christ. A few months earlier, while standing in my bathroom, looking in the mirror, I knew God had planned to do something incredible in the upcoming months. I had no idea his plans involved my mom.
Upon arriving at the hospital, I saw my family and friends sitting in the waiting room. We looked at each other for a brief moment. They hurriedly told me and my brother to “Go inside, go see your mom, we’ll say hello later.” I slowly opened the doors to the critical care unit, preparing myself for the worse. Desi and I walked into the room. I saw her there, lying lifeless in the hospital bed. Numerous lines and tubes traveled into and out of her body. The sound of the breathing machine and occasional alarms and beeps painted a poor prognosis in my mind.
My heart sank into the depths of my soul. As I approached my mom’s side, tears flowed down my face. She was dead, my mom was dead. I could not believe that my mom died. My mom had so much energy and life. How could this happen? I did not understand. She’s too young to die, much too young to die. I did not want her to go. Not now, not like this God. With Desi standing on one side of the bed and me standing on the other side, we both held her swollen hands and leaned in to say hello. My mom responded to our voices, or so I thought she did. She remained unresponsive.
Desi and I walked back to the waiting room and visited with our family and friends. Then, my sister started to tell us what happened in detail. She said that on October 16, 2003 at2 a.m., my mom complained of severe tearing chest pain while working the graveyard shift at a local grocery store in Kapolei, Hawaii. She suffered a massive aortic dissection. An aortic dissection is a tear within the major blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. The tear traveled from her heart to the major blood vessels that divided at the level of her hips, supplying blood to her legs. This huge tear caused my mom to lose large amounts of blood, which in turn, caused a heart attack and stroke. The medical team replaced the loss with many units of blood. Eventually, her left kidney shut down. Blood pooled into the sac that surrounded her heart, thus, preventing her heart from pumping properly and causing dangerous and life-threatening irregular heartbeats. The cardiologist placed a long needle into her heart sac to drain the excess blood.
In the emergency room, my mom coded five times and medical personnel performed cardiopulmonar resuscitation for over an hour. Still, she remained unresponsive. After being transported by ambulance in grave condition to a larger hospital in downtown Honolulu, my mom underwent risky cardiothoracic surgery in an attempt to find and repair the aortic tear. After the surgery, my mom went to the critical care unit for close observation. There, she again had several episodes of dangerous and life-threatening irregular heartbeats that required external heart
regulating devices placed over her chest.
Furthermore, she required respiratory support from a large bedside ventilation machine. A long plastic tube down her throat assisted her in breathing. Things did not look good. In fact, things looked awful. My mom was, for all intents and purposes, dead. My mom’s blood pressure proved challenging and difficult to control. At times, it would go so high, the nurses would call the cardiologist and he would increase her blood pressure medications to maximum dosages. Also, because of her kidney failure, she required hemodialysis three to four times a week to remove the toxins in her blood that her kidneys could not eliminate. My mom’s condition slowly worsened. Still, the doctors and surgeons decided to take my mom to the operating room to place a more stable breathing tube into her neck as well as a feeding tube into her stomach. One night, while I slept over at the hospital, the nurse said that my mom had multiple fever spikes. Later, a chest x-ray revealed that she had an infection in her lungs and blood cultures demonstrated an infection in her blood. As such, she received several antibiotics to combat these infections and her prognosis continued to worsen.
Adjusting to the eventual loss took a toll on me, my family, and especially my dad. At one point, my dad became suicidal. My dad said that he never asked God for anything in his life and said that he never prayed so hard before. We kept praying to God for a miracle. While in the waiting room, I took out my prayer book, a collection of my favorite Scriptures I compiled while living in Dallas. I stored the letter that my mom wrote to me in the front cover. My sister noticed it and asked if she could read it to the entire family. I said yes. She began to read the letter. “Hi Son Deno, thank you so much for a lovely visit. Mom and Dad really enjoyed every
precious moment with you. Never be sad son, life is too short. Change your tears upside down into a ‘happy face.’ Hee hee hee. Always remember you are out of sight but not out of mind. We are only a phone call away. You are also just a heartbeat away from Mom and Dad. Yesterday is gone with memories and the present we live each day with Jesus, and if this was our last day on earth, be happy. The future is yet to be when we will see each other in twelve months. Time goes by so fast. P.S. Roses are red, violets are blue, I thank God for giving me a son like you. I love you Deno. Hee hee hee. With all our love, Mom and Dad.” My sister looked up at me surprised and wide eyed. “Deno, did you know mom wrote this letter on October 16, 2002, exactly twelve months to the date of her dissection?” In disbelief, I looked at the date on the letter. I could not believe my eyes.
My uncle jokingly told us that was my mom’s way of saying, “Don’t worry, be happy!” We all shared a good laugh in between our tears.
As the days went by, the emotional pain exhausted me and my family. Finally, two of the critical care physicians, the neurologist, the cardiologist and the cardiothoracic surgeon gave grim outlooks. They each separately recommended considering removal of all life support. My dad took the news especially hard. The doctors suggested that we wait over the weekend to see if my mom would make any progress and then, if no progress
could be seen, discontinuing life support. Quietly, I prepared myself for the inevitable.
My family and I gathered around my mom’s bed on many occasions praying for the healing of her heart, her brain, her kidneys, and her lungs. We asked God to heal the dissection, to take away the infections, and to control her
blood pressure. Simply put, we asked God to perform a miracle. I called my friends and pastors back in Dallas and asked them to pray as well for my mom’s recovery. I took every opportunity turning to the Lord in prayer.
The next morning, I found myself sitting in that all too familiar waiting room. My dad, my brother, my sisters, family members and friends surrounded me. Again, the neurologist gave us little hope that my mom would survive. He said that her chances of surviving the aortic dissection were slim. Add to that the stroke, the heart attack, the kidney failure, the lung failure, the pneumonia, the blood infection, and possible brain damage due to a lack of oxygen, her prognosis remained extremely poor.
I remembered my last conversation with my mom the day before her dissection. Driving home from work, I called my mom on my cell phone to see if she finished packing her luggage for her trip the next day to visit Desi in New
Jersey. We talked about the trip and I remember asking her to send me some postage stamps. She frequently and humorously sent me stamps in Christmas cards, Easter cards, St. Patrick’s Day cards, and birthday cards. I smiled for a moment and looked over at my dad. Again, I heard the neurologist. He continued and said that even if she did make it through, she would at best be a vegetable.
Suddenly, a fearful thought came to mind. “What would happen if my mom had the dissection while on the plane?” My parents planned on flying United Airlines to visit Desi on October 17, 2003, the day after my mom’s
dissection. After their one week visit to New Jersey, they planned to visit me in Dallas for a week. What if my mom was on that plane? What if it happened in New Jersey? What if it happened in Dallas? What if it happened on their return trip back home to Hawaii? I quickly blocked that scary hought out of my mind. Then I remembered, God’s timing is perfect.
When the neurologist left, everyone remained silent. Then, I heard a voice speak. The voice said, “You’re mom will be with you by next week Wednesday.” I thought I was crazy, delusional and hearing things. After all, I did not get much sleep since arriving in Hawaii. I knew fatigue had set in as my emotions played tricks with my mind. Yet, something told me to share this news with others. So I told my dad, my brother, my sisters and friends. I said to them, I heard a voice that said mom will be back with us, she will be okay. Still, I had my doubts. I knew my mom did not have a chance surviving all those insults to her body. But yet, this voice reassured me that my mom would be okay. That following Wednesday, my mom could lift her legs and raise her arms off the bed on command. She could move her lips, ask for water, and nod yes and no purposefully. Over the course of a month, she made miraculous strides. Nurses from the other floors came by and said, “I’m not her nurse, but I just wanted to stop by to see this miracle.” The doctors had no explanation.
True to God’s promise, my mom is at home watching the grandchildren. She is in good health. She still enjoys going out with my dad to watch movies. In fact, she recently saw ‘The Passion of the Christ’ at a local theater. She does not need the breathing machine or feeding tube anymore. The tube in her neck has been removed. She can breathe and eat on her own. She no longer requires hemodialysis for her kidneys. Her blood pressure is well controlled, she has no residual brain damage, and she does not require any assistive devices to walk. When I call her on the phone, she is usually washing laundry, vacuuming the carpet or, as my mom would say, “watching
My brother told me that he asked our mom if she knew that she had died. My mom answered yes. He asked her, “Where did you go?” My mom said that she went to heaven. Later, I asked my mom, “What did you see?” My mom replied, “I went through a tunnel and bright light surrounded me. I saw two angels in white gowns telling me to come inside. I did not feel any stress, only beauty, joy and peace.” To this day, I continue to find myself at a loss for words trying to explain my mom’s recovery and how she survived. However, what I do know is that God truly performed a miracle and with him, all things are possible.
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