Every December 4 through January 14 since 2007 I daily read the blog www.reachtj.blogspot.com as a remembrance to the hope we have in Jesus and the grace that he extends so freely to us. The blog is the account of my 42 day hospital stay from which I never should have survived - but God gave my family hope and He extended to me the grace of an extension of life for which I am eternally grateful.
The battle between life and death started on December 4 when I entered the hospital unable to breath. They quickly determined that I was in congestive heart failure and had massive pneumonia and a huge pleural effusion (a collection of fluid in the wall of the lung-like having a liter of pop stuck inside your lung wall). What they would not know for a week was that it was MRSA or Methicyllin resistant staphylococcus aureas- a "super bug" pneumonia. This would lead to septic shock, Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, a failed mitral valve in my heart, high fevers that required ice cooling jackets, the shutting down of some of my organs, heartbeats of 220 or higher without the ability to shock my heart back into rhythm - all this while I was in a coma and on a ventilator. On a number of occasions the doctors gathered the family to prepare them for my imminent death.
Amazingly God gave my wife, Mary Ann, hope two days into this ordeal. Two days later was the day that I told her I believed I was going to die. It was the day that they would put me on a ventilator from which I should not have woken up alive. It was the day that I could barely breath as I felt I was drowning in my own fluids. But two days before that day as she sat by me bed she asked Jesus, "How should I pray?" And God replied in an audible voice (to her), "It will be very close, but T.J. will live." A voice of hope when there was no human hope. A voice of hope that she clung to during the next weeks of a life and death struggle. When the doctors gently told the family there was no hope she stood on the hope God had given her. She was a rock of faith as were my sons Jon and Chip who walked through the dark days with her and became men in the process. I owe a deep debt of gratitude to the love and perseverance of Mary Ann, Jon and Chip!
Our family experienced amazing grace during and after those days. Our prayer partners came to pray and love on the family. Friends gathered around and sheltered them in their love. And time and again, God gave His grace when it was needed. One night as my youngest sister was standing by my bed angry with God tired and discouraged, she felt a hand on her shoulder. Immediately she knew that it was going to be OK whether I lived or I died. She turned to see who was there but there was no one. She knew she had been touched by God or an angelic being. On another day, a nurse came in tears to Mary Ann and said through tears, "I was just in T.J.'s room and God gave me a vision of him alive and well!"
People often ask me what I remember from my coma. Only one thing. I knew that my lungs were ruined but that God had a set of perfectly healthy lungs for me. That was the Spirit's encouragement to me when I was deeply sick and unable to process what was going on. Another blessing!
Most of all we were blessed through the thousands who prayed for God to do something miraculous and extraordinary. It is the faith and prayers of thousands around the world whom God answered in His sovereignty in choosing to heal my broken heart, clear my lungs, defeat MRSA, septic shock, cool the fevers until the day I walked out of the hospital on January 14, a product of His grace.
God gives us hope in all situations and His grace is with us always. Think back to the situations you have been in where He has shown you His hope and His grace and never forget. Never forget! It is His grace that sustains us day to day, it is His hope that walks with us through the dark nights of the soul that we all experience. Someone asked me, "How do you remember?" One of the ways I remember is to read the blog put up for me daily from December 4 to January 14. It is a month of remembrance for me. I will follow that practice until I see Jesus face to face and can thank Him in person.
I am a walking billboard of God's hope and grace. So are you. Never forget. Always live in thanks for His hope and grace.