Friday, October 26, 2001

Rebecca - day 22

Good morning, Friends,

This is early Friday morning. I'm in Baltimore, but have been in contact 2 or 3 times every day with Susannah and Elizabeth. They are ministering angels to my wife these days. George MacDonald said once, to one of his children who was slipping onto the presence of the Lord: "If you're at home in God and I'm at home in God, we can't be far away." I'm thankful for that reality now, that in God geographical distance doesn't really separate us.

Update - Good news first: Rebecca has had increased movement in both legs, and increased sensation in most parts of her body, except the midriff. She has had substantial increase in movement in her right leg. And the best news is that the doctors have inserted the devise into the tracheotomy that allows her to speak. This is most significant because it indicates the doctors' evaluation that she will not need mechanical ventilation again. The new tube does not allow for the ventilator to be attached. The doctors can still get to her lungs 4 or 5 times a day to aspirate them, but she now has air going directly over her vocal chords. She can only whisper, and the doctors say she may need speech therapy - but a whisper is a huge step from 3 weeks ago, and bodes well for the future.

Prayer needs:
~that her breathing can increase until she can take full, deep breaths.
~she has had no further movement in her right hand from several days ago - we need to focus prayer on the nerves to her arms and right hand.
~that she will be able to eat more. She is eating by mouth now, but the doctors want increased caloric intake.
~that she will be given strength, physically. Most of you know Rebecca has had Chronic Fatigue. That may be a factor in her deep feeling of weakness and weariness. She needs more strength.
~that she be emotionally and spiritually encouraged. She is facing some discouragement at this point. She is a remarkable woman and has clung to Jesus and His grace. This has resulted in am amazing equanimity. The doctors mention it almost daily. But the realization of the long and difficult process ahead of her is weighing on her. She doesn't feel she has the strength for it. My consolation and faith is that when we are weak, He is strong. May His strength be her portion.

Our love and gratitude to you all,


Thursday, October 25, 2001

Rebecca - day 20

Dear Friends,

As you know, I'm in the US at the moment. I just received this from Susannah and Elizabeth.

Dear Ones,

Thank you so much for continuing to stand in prayer with Rebecca in her suffering. We wanted to update you again on her condition and give you some direction in prayer.

Rebecca is soldiering through this struggle. Her resolve is firm but she is physically extremely weak. She has been struggling as well with some understandable discouragement and asked particularly today for your prayers. Her physicians have put her back on the ventilator for a couple of hours a day in order to fully expand her lungs regularly because, "she is too weak to sigh." That gives you a sense of the degree of weakness she is experiencing.

Please pray that God will renew her strength and lift her spirits. There are a number of factors that can bear on this. Pray that she can sleep well at night, deeply and soundly. Pray for good and attentive night nurses as we are not allowed to be with her at night and she is unable to communicate to anyone who is not in the room.

Pray that she can begin to eat more. She really is too tired to eat and nothing tastes good, but if she doesn't eat she will become weaker still.

Pray that the doctors will be able to insert the new trach tube that will enable her to talk again. Rebecca is experiencing more sensation throughout her body every day. She also has slightly more movement every day. Every bit of progress is encouraging but she has a very long road ahead. Please continue to pray for ongoing re-innervation of her spinal cord and throughout her body.

Thank you so much. We look forward to rejoicing in God's answers to our cry on her behalf.

Susannah and Elizabeth

I just got a call from Susannah at the hospital. The doctors just came in to tell Rebecca that she has a resistant bacteria or virus in her throat. (Susannah referred to it as a 'resistant bug'.) It is not a full-blown infection and they are not treating her for it, but it is present in her throat and we all need to start wearing gowns and whatnot to avoid carrying it out of the hospital. It is found in hospitals, I gathered. They are not terribly concerned but Rebecca wanted to make sure this concern was in the prayer update so people could stand with her against that as well.

In His Peace,

Wednesday, October 24, 2001

Rebecca - day 19

Dear Friends,

I'm writing this from somewhere over the mid-Atlantic en route to the States. This is no doubt the most difficult flight I've ever taken. But Rebecca is in competent and loving hands with Susannah, Elizabeth Schenkel, our boys, and dear friends, as well as the superb medical staff in the ICU. That is my comfort.

She has had a rough couple of days, but Susannah called me from the hospital this morning, just before we took off, to tell me that Rebecca had had a good night and was feeling stronger today.

The doctors think she will be able to be transferred to a rehabilitation center in the next two weeks. Several friends have given us recommendations of doctors to consult for this next phase. A dear friend, Dr. Nancy Dawson, who works at the Mayo Clinic, recommended a Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation specialist in Leuven. Princess Margaretha kindly called one of the top neurology specialists whom she knows in Belgium. These two consulted with our ICU doctors and have given us the recommendation of the Pelenberg Hospital near Leuven. This is one of the top rehab centers in Belgium.

Susannah and I visited it yesterday. We met with the head of the department and toured the facility. We also met with several of the doctors and therapists who will be working with Rebecca. The hospital is, well, a hospital: institutional. But the setting is lovely, with beautiful views from the windows of the rehab ward. This will be important for Rebecca. And we can personalize her room.

What I would give to take this from her! But One who loves her more than I do is overseeing all this. The Lord often reminds me that life doesn't consist of the things we have - even mobility. Life's substance is in our relationships - first with Him, then with one another. In this definition, life is very full and rich for my Beloved. And it will be these relationships that sustain her through the months that lie ahead.

Yesterday, as the rehab doctor defined the components that lead to successful rehabilitation, several aspects were mentioned beyond the physical. One primary one was her "social network". Prayer was not mentioned, but for us that is a principal component. Thanks for your part in Rebecca's prayer and relational network. She'll need us all these next months.

With gratitude,


Monday, October 22, 2001

Rebecca - day 17

Dear Friends,

First, let me give you a little insight on Rebecca's injury from the doctors' point of view. Swelling in the spinal cord can induce paralysis after a trauma. This is what the doctors were hopping was Rebecca's situation. So initially they gave her large doses of steroids to reduce the inflammation, hoping that feeling and movement would begin to return when the swelling went down. They had said that if she began to recover within the first 36 hours there would be hope of regaining movement. But as time elapsed, hope diminished. That was the reason for the bleak prognosis 8 days after her fall when there had been so little change in her condition. That is also why the medical team is so surprised and delighted with the recent progress that began 12 days after the accident. We see this progress as a direct answer to prayer.

She has now been off the respirator for 3 days. She is breathing through the tracheotomy. She had some difficulty breathing again today. This is a little set back, but she still has made significant progress. The doctors hope, sometime this week, to put the device in the tracheotomy that will allow her to speak.

She has also had, for the first time, some movement of the little finger in her right hand. We had asked prayer 2 days ago for this. We're seeing the effectiveness of corporate prayer.

The doctors are discussing moving her to a rehabilitation unit in the next several weeks. I'll send an e-mail out tomorrow to give you more information on that. I'm a little too weary tonight to write more.

A thousand thanks for continuing in prayer with us. He is faithful who called us, and He will do it.

Love to you all, in Him,


Friday, October 19, 2001

Rebecca - day 15

Dear Friends,

Your prayers are making a difference. One week ago the doctors said Rebecca would need a respirator the rest of her life. Last night she slept through the night without the respirator. This is most encouraging.

Three days ago the doctors, who are wonderful and very competent, saw an increase in her ability to assume some breathing on her own, so they began to take her off the respirator for periods of time. Yesterday they did an exam on her diaphragm and found that both sides are working again. They will wait a while before determining if they will remove the tracheotomy, just incase she tires and needs it again, and so that they can aspirate her
lungs. But they are now talking in terms of her eventually breathing on her own - and being able to speak again. We need to continue to support the progress of her breathing with prayer until it is complete.

She has increased movement and feeling on her left side, able to move her fingers and toes some, and yesterday able to hold her left leg up a little for a few second. We're seeing daily progress.

I want to focus prayer now on getting the nerves on the right side of her body beginning to function again. She is having some increased sensation (not exactly feeling) on her right side, which is good. But feeling and
movement run on different parts of the spinal cord, so we need to focus prayer on nerves that control movement. (Those of you who are medical people, forgive my terminology. Much of what we're getting is in French, and doesn't always give us the correct English words.)

Little by little, until we see her walk again!

Many years ago the Lord showed me that the only time I could know Him was NOW. I can anticipate meeting Him tomorrow. I can remember meeting Him yesterday. But the only time I can encounter Him is at this present moment. I, and we, have had to live moment-by-moment, where He and His help are. Thoughts of the past were painful. Thinking of the future can be torturous. But there is grace and peace for each moment, for each challenge, because He is there to strengthen. As the Prince of peace He really does give peace (in the midst of dreadful situations) that doesn't make sense - that passes understanding; peace that the situation can't provide, and that the world can't take away.

Your prayers for Rebecca, me, and the children have sustained us. How do I say thank you? Our prayers together will see Rebecca through this.

Love to you all, in Him,


Wednesday, October 17, 2001

Rebecca - day 12

Dear Friends,

Again, our abundant thanks for your prayers! "The effectual, fervent prayer of righteous people avails much."

I just returned from the hospital, having had a definitive discussion with the doctors in ICU. I'll give some detail below, as well as specific prayer requests. We are facing a long process ahead. I know many of you will want regular updates on developments, so what I am going to do is set up a "Rebecca" group for future mailings. This note will be the last general one I'll send to all our friends (at least for a while). Any of you who would like to get regular updates on Rebecca's progress, please reply and let me know. Some of you have already indicated a desire to stay abreast of her situation, but, in the press of these days, I've not kept good records of who you are. Sorry! Please let me know again.

We are now 12 days from her fall. The doctors tell me that she will be in the ICU for another several weeks, and then will be transferred to a therapy center or unit.

Last Thursday, the day before her surgery, I was told by one of the doctors that Rebecca would be permanently paralyzed, needing a respirator to breath for the rest of her life. Needless to say, that was quite a blow - it was
their best clinical prognosis, given the facts of her case. But, as I've said, it is God's prognosis that I want to know.

In the last two days there has been volitional movement in her left hand, and more movement in her legs. The doctors are now cautiously optimistic that she may regain some movement on her left side. She has also had progress in her breathing, to the point that they want to try to wean her from the respirator over the next week. These are all hopeful signs for us - and direct answers to our prayers.

As soon as they determine if she needs chronic ventilation, they/we will determine which therapy center will be most appropriate. She could be there from 3 months to a long time. If she is not dependent on a respirator, that will allow them to focus primarily on rehabilitation.

We have been encouraged by the events of the last several days. Realism and faith, or hope, are not opposing concepts. I think both faith and hope are in their best environment when we are in reality about our circumstances. As a family, we have a growing confidence that Rebecca will have measurable, if not total recovery.

Sunday, we felt the Lord say to us that this is a new beginning. It is an end to one season, but every conclusion is also a beginning. We will see the Lord's faithfulness in this new season. We will be strengthened in our relationship with Him and with one another. Rebecca will certainly grow to know Him better.

The doctors keep saying that she is a courageous woman. They've remarked at our strength in this devastating situation. This gives us opportunity to speak about Jesus, the One upon whom we've learned to depend, the One who holds our future.

This next week is a critical one. Please pray that the muscles in her chest and diaphragm will work again. If she can breath on her own within the next week, that will be a great boon to her condition, and to her prognosis - and she will be able to speak. (I long to hear her voice again.) Our approach is to pray through each phase of recovery as it arrives. If the Lord gives us an instantaneous healing, we'll rejoice. If it is processive, we'll rejoice. Whatever - we'll rejoice. For now, her breathing on her own is the focus.

Who Rebecca is to us, and to many, doesn't depend on what she can do. It is WHO she is - and she is with us. For that we rejoice exceedingly.

Our eternal gratitude for standing with us through this crisis! When I have the "Rebecca" group complete I'll send out more detail.

Our love to you all, in Him,