Today is my mom’s 70th birthday.
As a special tribute to her, I am sharing her miraculous story of surviving the most difficult seven weeks of her life. My prayer is that you will be encouraged and that your faith will be fueled to declare God’s promises over your own life.
On September 1, 2009, my 61-year-old mom, Karen, was sent home from her local hospital with pneumonia. No big deal. Pneumonia can be very serious, but her doctors weren’t overly concerned.
Two days later, I was the one who was concerned. I remember talking to Mom on the phone, and she just didn’t sound right.
“I’m coming to get you,” I said, “and we’re going to OSF.” Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria is the largest and most highly respected hospital in our region.
Upon arriving at the ER, Mom was rushed into an exam room to see whether she was having a heart attack. It turned out to be pericarditis—an inflammation of the lining sur- rounding the heart. The doctors told me they would treat her with antibiotics, and it was probable that Mom would be released in a couple of days.
By Sunday morning, I was slightly concerned that Mom had not yet been released. After calling her on my way to church, I was fairly certain she wasn’t going home that day either—unless she made an instant turnaround.
Hmm, I don’t like the way she sounds. The doctor said it would be two days—this is the third day, and it seems like she’s getting worse.
After church, Annette, the kids, and I went straight to the hospital to check on Mom and give Dad some company. The kids were excited to see Nanny and Poppy, but Mom appeared weak and lethargic—a little too sluggish and soft- spoken for my liking.
Throughout the afternoon, I noticed that Mom’s body temperature seemed to be dropping. Her skin was alarmingly cold—enough so that I notified a nurse: “Her skin is freez- ing! This can’t be normal.”
I don’t remember what the nurse’s response was after she checked Mom’s temperature, but I know I wasn’t satisfied.
What is going on?
Savannah (almost five years old at the time) and Ashton (almost two) were getting antsy and hungry, so I walked them and Annette to the parking deck so they could leave. As I trekked back across the hospital to the cardiac wing, I prayed, but I still had a nagging feeling that something wasn’t right. When I stepped off the elevator on the fifth floor, I noticed doctors and nurses running toward the hall where my mom’s room was located, and the Code Blue alarm was ringing loudly.
No! It can’t be Mom!
As soon as I rounded the corner, the nightmare became a reality. I rushed frantically into Mom’s room, where I found 18 medical personnel trying to save her life. Dad was wedged in the corner, praying fervently. I could tell by the look on everyone’s faces that hope had left the room. We were about to lose Mom.
God, please do something!
After quietly pleading with God to do something, I knew that I had to do something. Practice what you preach, right?
Okay, it’s go time! Life or death.
Like a quarterback charging to the middle of the huddle, I plowed my way through the doctors and nurses. At that moment, I didn’t care about protocol or consequences. My mom needed a miracle and I had the same Holy Spirit inside of me that had raised Christ from the dead.
After shouldering my way through the tangle of medical professionals, I placed my hand on Mom’s body and prayed with boldness and bravery.
“In the name of Jesus—” I shouted. I don’t remember what else I prayed, but I know it was short, to the point, and loud. Mom sat up almost instantly and began projec- tile vomiting. (Sorry to be so descriptive, but at the time this was a great thing.) Mom was then transferred to the intensive care unit, where she was listed as “critical but stable.”
When I recalled this moment recently with my mom, she told me that her mind had been alert while all of this was happening, but she had no control over her body. When she coded, she saw the faces of her grandchildren—my kids and my sister’s daughter, Jadealynn—and she prayed to God, I want to live. I want to see my grandchildren grow up. She told me that right after she prayed that, I ran over and laid hands on her. Amazing.
We thought the worst was over, but it was only begin- ning. I pretty much lived at the hospital for the next six weeks. Mom had a rampant infection around her heart, and the physicians and surgeons were having a difficult time identifying it. This made it extremely challenging to find the right antibiotic to treat the infection. The next month and a half was an emotional roller coaster that included mountains of hope and valleys of despair, prayer without ceasing, and lots of tears. It also included chest tubes, ven- tilators, and multiple surgeries to drain fluid. Mom spent at least two of those weeks in the ICU in a medically induced coma.
During one of her surgeries, I remember sitting in the family waiting room, working on my laptop, when an atten- dant approached me. She quietly tapped me on the shoulder and told me that a priest was on the phone and wanted to talk to me. OSF is a Catholic hospital, so priests double as chaplains. My heart was instantly gripped with fear. My last encounter with a priest at that hospital had come 11 years earlier, when my wife and I were informed that her father had passed away upon arrival.
“I just wanted to let you know that your mom is doing fine,” he said. And I have no idea what he said next.
Are you trying to give me a heart attack?
After that phone call, I decided to get out of the ICU waiting room, where doom and gloom hung like a heavy curtain. I’d had enough. I decided to hang out in the cafeteria when I wasn’t in Mom’s room.
Another time when Mom was about to have surgery, my dad and I went to pray with her in the surgery preparation room. As she was about to be rolled away, someone came charging into the room to call off the surgery. A nurse had forgotten to note on Mom’s chart that she was on a blood thinner. Had they gone through with the surgery, she prob- ably would have bled out.
Up and down. Back and forth. Word up.
One day while Dad and I were in the cafeteria eating, we received a call from one of Mom’s doctors, who needed to speak with us. We were not prepared for that conversation.
“Karen is very sick. She has a widespread infection. She is septic. Her organs are shutting down. You need to contact the rest of your family.”
I was broken. One of Mom’s friends from work came to say good-bye. But I refused to go there in my mind.
I remember breaking down and calling Annette, my two siblings, a cousin, and some close friends. After I got off the phone, my dad and I went into Mom’s room to pray for a miracle.
“You need to get a minister,” the nurse said to my dad. “Chuck and I are both ministers,” Dad replied. But as I looked down at my mom’s sedated body—a maze of tubes, wires, and cables—I realized I had nothing left. I couldn’t pray. I tried, but all I could do was weep. I looked at my dad and said, “You pray.”
My dad is an old-school power preacher, and in that moment he prayed as if he were Elijah calling down fire on Mount Carmel. After Dad’s audacious prayer, one of the nurses said to me, “I have never heard anyone ever pray like that before.”
God heard. God responded. Mom defied death once again, and this time she began to improve.
Eventually, Mom was moved out of the ICU and began taking steps toward regaining her health and strength. She needed one last minor surgery, but the prognosis was for a full recovery.
When they took her in for the final surgery, my family and I waited downstairs. They gave me a pager and said they would notify me when Mom was in recovery.
We waited and waited.
We waited some more.
Why is this taking so long?
Two hours after the time when the surgery should have ended, the pager died.
Sheesh! What is going on?
Finally, an attendant emerged from the elevator and told me that one of the doctors wanted to meet with me. As I rode the elevator upstairs to see him, all I could pray was, “Come on, God. You didn’t bring us this far to have it end badly, did you?”
On the surgery floor, I was greeted by the anesthesiologist. “Your mom coded in the recovery room,” he said matter-of-factly. After a short pause that felt like an eternity, he added, “But we were able to resuscitate her. She’s going to have to go back into the ICU for a couple of days—which means she’ll have to be intubated again—but we expect her to begin her road to recovery after that.”
I thanked him, we shook hands, and he walked away. Then I lost it.
Mom began rehab shortly after her release from the ICU, and on October 20 she was discharged from the hospital—almost seven weeks after being admitted. Before leaving the hospital, Mom said to one of her doctors, “Thank you for saving my life.”
“Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your amazing recovery,” he replied.
One of her other doctors calls her “The Miracle Woman,” and rightly so. There is absolutely no other explanation.
Five weeks after being released from the hospital, Mom went back to full-time work with the help of a walker. That was more than eight years ago, and her recovery has been complete. Today, she’s retired and serves on the greeting team at our church. Just yesterday, she stood in our lobby handing out bulletins and smiles. “Hi Chuckie! Are you ready to preach?”
More than you know, Mom.
I’m ready to shout from the rooftops—if you will stand on the promises of God during your storm, you will still be standing when the sun comes out again.
*This was an excerpt from Chapter 9 of my book, 41 Will Come. Click HERE to order your copy today.