(I have Micah's full permission to share these stories.)
I'm sitting here with a mug of coffee, reflecting on the past nineteen days. It's only been a few weeks since I last posted... But it feels like a few years. Amidst a global pandemic, our family endured a terrifying family emergency, completely unrelated to the worldwide crisis.
On a normal Thursday, while I was getting ready for work, my big brother texted me from Texas and asked if I'd have time to give him a call to discuss some weird symptoms he was experiencing. Praise God I saw the text 30 minutes later, and immediately gave him a ring. It was very quickly apparent to me that he needed to go into the emergency room, pronto. (And yes, his roommate should drive him!)
I was mildly concerned and praying, texting, and checking in continually. He was losing lots of blood, but they couldn't figure from where or why. So they kept observing him and running tests, eventually admitting him to the ICU late afternoon.
By dinnertime, emergency exploratory was being discussed, as he grew weaker & weaker. At this point, my older older brother, on his 35th birthday, had joined Micah in the ICU. So much gratitude that he was there.
By 9:00pm, he had been rushed into surgery, the surgeons going in completely blind, not knowing what they'd be dealing with. At 10:00pm, we received a text to PRAY WITH UTMOST FERVENCY. My big brother was bleeding everywhere, due to ruptured veins from an extremely rare genetic blood disorder he has. There was nothing the surgeons could do at that hospital, they're only hope was to stabilize him enough to fly him to a bigger hospital.
Typing this has me weeping, tears pouring down my cheeks. The emotions of that night are still so raw and real, 2.5 weeks later (feels more like three years, seriously).
No words can describe the emotions of being 1,000 miles away, while your precious brother is bleeding out on a surgeon's table. We were told later it was a total "bloodbath" and the doctor was unable to see what he was doing, because they couldn't suction the blood fast enough.
(These are the times I regret watching medical shows because I can picture things too vividly.)
I remember kneeling on our bed, my face buried in the sheets, prostrate before the Lord begging for His mercy & protection over my brother's life. The agony, the grief, the fear... Sounds were coming out of me that had never come out of me before. Justin and I cried out to the Lord together, his words being far more intelligible than mine.
At 10:06pm (I remember the time precisely), I called one of my bestie's, crying so hard she couldn't make out what I was saying. All I really remember saying is, "he's bleeding to death, Emily" and just bawling & bawling. She cried & prayed with me. We hung up... I fell on the kitchen floor and cried & prayed some more.
Shortly after 11:30pm, I spoke with my sister-in-law who was in the ICU waiting room with my older older brother. At that time, Micah was being loaded onto the helicopter to transfer to the bigger hospital, in *extremely* critical condition, his body only being kept alive by blood pressure medications and blood transfusions. (He had a blood clot in his stomach and bleeding from veins all through his abdomen and esophagus.)
By 11:46pm the helicopter had landed at the other hospital, where a medical team was ready and waiting. It was a miracle from God that they were able to keep him alive & stable enough to transport him at all. We praised God and kept pleading with Him for further healing.
At 1:30am, a surgical team performed a procedure and put a balloon in to stop the heaviest bleeding. God used that procedure and our prayers and Micah stabilized for the remainder of the night, while still being extremely critical.
I finally slept in bits and pieces between 3-6am. Friday was a long weird day of waiting and praying and waiting and waiting and waiting and praying some more. Multiple surgeons were working together to create a surgical plan to try to save my brother's life. We were told it would be an extremely risky surgery but they would try.
Around 3:00pm, I texted one of my younger brothers to say I was putting my phone on Do Not Disturb to try to nap, but to call if there was an urgent update. He texted back and told me I probably shouldn't nap... Immediately my heart started racing, because I knew that meant something big had happened.
I gave him a call and he was weeping... He hadn't heard the details yet, but he had been told that the surgeons determined there was nothing they could do. Nothing. NOTHING. I collapsed to the floor, half on carpet, half on hardwood, in front of our little coffee station. I was weeping so hard I couldn't speak or breathe.
Justin joined me from the other room and we put the phone on speaker and Justin prayed with me, my little brother, and his wife. We all decided we needed to gather at Dad & Mom's house, with the remaining two siblings that had not yet flown to Texas (our parents had already flown down as well).
I jumped in the shower and we made arrangements for our baby girl and dog. An hour or two later, we sat with my two little sisters and shared with them the grim news... Doctors said it was terminal and there was nothing they could do. Holding them while they sobbed and cried out to Jesus was one of the hardest things I've ever done. My baby sister is especially close with Micah and it was heart-wrenching to participate in her grief, amidst my own.
God showed up in SO many details... A spacious minivan to use at no charge, cash from friends for gas & hotels, childcare and dog care for both girls & puppies, snacks for the road, an iPass, friends to get our mail & care for our home, and prayers from hundreds.
Shortly before midnight Friday, we received our first tiny glimmer of hope, when a different specialist presented a potential game plan to try to bring Micah back from this. It was the tiniest bit of hope, but it was something, and we prayed fervently.
Also on a personal note, I was having a horrible "Crohn's day" Saturday and we had to stop constantly for my tummy. I am so grateful for all my siblings love, understanding, and care. There wasn't a single complaint.
Around 7:00pm Saturday, our van full of siblings/spouses was sitting next to a gas pump in Springfield, MO, when we received further bits of hope. The new specialist had done a procedure/testing and discovered things were far better than the day before. God was working miracles in Micah's body behind the scenes, while people all around the world, prayed on behalf of him and our family. I am crying tears of gratitude right now while I type this... No words in the world can begin to express how grateful we are to each and every single person who prayed.
By 10:30pm that night we crashed at a (much less crappy) hotel somewhere in Oklahoma and got some much needed hours of sleep, followed by a slow morning of taking time to shower, get some necessities from Walmart, etc., allowing those of us with health issues a bit of time to heal & recoup.
My dad sent the song "Do It Again" to our family group chat Saturday afternoon.... These are the lines that struck my heart the most, bringing instant tears:
And I believe, I'll see You do it again
You made a way, where there was no way
And I believe, I'll see You do it again"
The very next morning regulations changed again and we were not allowed to see him (praise God they still allowed one "caretaker" in and my mom and oldest brother & his wife took shifts 24/7). We were so incredibly grateful to God for giving us better health and smoother travels on Sunday, so we got there right before visiting hours ended. Such a gift.
God blessed ALL of us with incredible hosts, friends of my Texan siblings, who opened their homes and beds and kitchens and dining room tables and living rooms and land and vehicles and meals. God cared for us so well through their Christian love and hospitality. Truly the Gospel at work, a picture of the larger Body of Christ. We deeply, deeply grateful to each of them.
Thursday morning (19th), we loaded up the van, and started the long trek back to Wisconsin, via a different route to avoid the state lines most likely to shut down. God again blessed us with safe, smooth, and (mostly) healthy travels. We crashed for the night in Kansas City sometime around 11:00pm, in a weird smelling hotel with a heater that rattled so badly Justin took it apart and put it back together - ha. (Also, Justin happened to "sniffle" his nose while checking in, and the gloved receptionist immediately asked if he was sick. So so crazy to travel while the whole world was shutting down, due to a pandemic.)
The continued concern for my immunosuppressed body is a constant anxiety to give over to the Lord.
The continual need for further healing, procedures, etc. for Micah keep us continually in prayer.
Concerns for other family members & friends affected financially & physically by this pandemic give us endless things to bring before the throne of our Father.
Community wide and nationwide health & economical tragedy can threaten to drown our hope.
And yet we know our God is greater. He isn't surprised by any of this. He is just as sovereign, just as kind, just as loving, just as holy. We are in prayer, in the Word, in virtual community via FaceTime & Zoom, and doing lots of fun family things at home & in our yard (when the weather cooperates).
I am doing phone sessions with my Christian therapist... I'm tuning out the news and leaving it up to Justin to notify me if anything super important changes/happens. I'm journaling more, reading more, and enjoying extra Netflix. I'm taking my supplements and drinking my water and doing deep breathing exercises. I'm going on walks/jogs and having lots of dance parties with Em & Justin. I'm brewing more mugs of coffee and steeping more cups of tea. (And the coffee effects on my tummy are fine because I'm always home with my bathroom... ha.)
Justin and I are developing deeper intimacy and growth, as we have navigated and continue to navigate deep, deep waters. Thankful we have our Anchor and Hope, the One who commands the sea, the One who enables us to walk on water. He is good, always and forever... Forever and always, He is good.