Before December 2011, the Highway 520 floating bridge across Lake Washington carried roughly 170,000 cars per day and was horrendously congested during rush hour. Two months after tolling began on the bridge, traffic flows were down 40-60% and the ambulance carrying Eddie screamed across the water at the height of the morning rush hour, encountering virtually no obstacles en route to the emergency room. Say what they will about the exorbitant bridge tolls, there is no way Eddie would have made it to the hospital without them.
"It's like losing a wing at 35,000 feet, landing the airplane, and then calling it a great flight."That was the analogy given to us by the Director of Cardiac ICU after the second of Eddie’s three exploratory heart surgeries. He was referring specifically to the release of a large blood clot in his right ventricle on the operating table and the resulting pulmonary embolism (PE). The clot had dislodged during the procedure and, with its significant size, should have been fatal. In fact, the same doctor told us he'd never seen anything like it . . . the PE should have been "game, set, and match" for Eddie. Instead, it simply disappeared.
Sometimes I wonder if we don’t overuse the term “miracle.” For many of us in the Pacific Northwest, seeing the sun is a miracle. It still seems miraculous that we can fly from New York to London in roughly seven hours, and it certainly would have been impossible to comprehend 100 years ago. As Elder Dallin H. Oaks has stated: “[T]hese wonders are explainable by physical laws understood by some mortals. I call them miracles because I do not personally understand them and therefore cannot duplicate them at will.”
Over the past three months, however, I believe we have witnessed a variety of more impressive and “authentic”miracles; miracles worked through the power of faith rather than of intellect. I am thankful to live in an age where reason has supplanted superstition, and where healthy skepticism has replaced blind obedience to traditional hierarchies of power. However, I firmly believe that God can and does work miracles in our lives according to our faith and His will. “To deny the reality of miracles,” said President Howard W. Hunter, “on the ground that the results and manifestations must be fictitious simply because we cannot comprehend the means by which they have happened is arrogant on the face of it.”
In addition to Eddie’s many medical miracles, we have been touched by the remarkable sacrifices made by so many friends and family members as they have watched us struggle. We have been hugged and held, fed and encouraged, blessed and healed. Complete strangers reached out with kind words, co-workersgenerously donated time and money as well working extra hours to ensure key deliverables were met, and neighbors and family members took care of our children as if they were their own. At the risk of overusing the term, these are miracles . . . every one.
En Media Res: Waiting on the Lord
Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord
So here we are nearly three months, five surgeries, and numerous miracles later. Eddie is still in the ICU, but improving steadily. With several days of strong momentum, we are even beginning to think about transferring him to the general surgical floor for recovery. While we have grown to love and trust the Cardiac ICU staff, moving to the floor would be a tremendous step forward for Eddie.
In reality, I’m not sure “recovery” is the appropriate word to use yet since we still have a long road ahead of us. The constant parade of emergencies has kept us rooted in the present and it has been easy to forget we still have to make it through the transplantation stage and associated rehabilitation. A heart transplant is a life-saving procedure, but we are in essence trading one disease (heart failure) for another (immunodeficiency), and he will need to fight every day of his life to protect his new heart from his own body’s natural defenses.
We are constantly reminded that Eddie's battle is no skirmish, but rather a drawn out campaign. As we look back over the past three months and add up the number of events, surgeries, and procedures, not to mention the difficult conversations, we are humbled by how little that is happening is within our control.
We know that we are at our strongest when we respond to these challenges with hope and optimism rather than questioning, complaining, or giving into despair. As Montaigne puts it: "Not being able to govern events, I govern myself." And we also know that we aren't alone in this trial . . . each kind friend, family member, classmate, and co-worker that has taken a share of our burden has strengthened our testimony of selfless service and love.
I appreciate the psalmist for emphasizing the importance of courage as we wait for the Lord’s will to be accomplished. We encounter new challenges each day and without courage, hope, and humility, I imagine we would quickly find ourselves unable to provide the strength and support Eddie needs from us. I love the line from Albert Camus’ essay Return to Tipasa. On a dreary December day during the Second World War, after a wrenching and disheartening return to his native Algiers, he experienced a moment of renewed hope as he observed a sunbreak across the Bay of Tipasa:
I discovered once more at Tipasa that one must keep intact in oneself a freshness, a cool wellspring of joy, love the day that escapes injustice, and return to combat having won that light. . . . O light! . . . In the middle of winter I at last discovered that there was in me an invincible summer.
That “invincible summer” is, for me, an abiding faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Whatever is in store for our family in the grinding weeks, months, and years ahead, I know that we have access to a pure and inexhaustible fountain of hope and comfort through prayer, scripture study, and selfless service. Like Nephi, we declare:
Press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.
We know our family is in our Heavenly Father’s hands. We do not seek to escape adversity, but rather seek to grow, learn, and be strengthened by it. And as is totally appropriate for a Father that loves his children dearly, it is by means of devoted brothers and sisters, carrying us through many dark days and nights that His works are made manifest.Our families, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and classmates, along with dedicated doctors and nurses, serve as God’s hands, “[strengthening our] weak hands .