As I sit in my office with 954 emails in my inbox, 71 unread text messages, and countless tweets and Facebook messages that are unanswered I keep asking myself where do I even start. One one hand I am totally ready to get dive back into my daily role at Pleth with both feet but at the same time I am having the hardest time concentrating. For those of you that might not be aware, the past week has been the worst week of my life. A week and a half ago we went in for an ultrasound to see our baby girl, everything was perfect, our OB Doctor assured us that she was doing fine, and in fact she was. We got to see Shelby Mae, as we had already named her, bouncing around and waving her hands at us on the screen and we left that appointment feeling so good about everything. Our minds were already on how we were going to finish out the nursery, a room that has been vacant for the 5 years since we built our house. We were also discussing fun things like where we were going to keep her pony that we were going to get her, because every little girl needs a pony right? I’m not stretching things when I tell you that Shelby Mae consumed just about every other thought and conversation that Donna and I were having.
Just a few days after our OB appointment Donna started experiencing higher than normal blood pressure. This is not totally abnormal for us because Donna has battled high blood pressure (a byproduct of her lupus) for most of her life. One thing about Donna and I that a lot of you may not know but we have been through a lot in the almost 7 years of our marriage and as a result our faith in God, who always brings us through the hard times has grown with each and every bump in the road. We start our day w/ prayer together and communion with God, and we end our day w/ prayer. We prayed extensively over her blood pressure and the pain that she was just starting to experience in her back that evening before bed. I woke up in the middle of the night when I sensed Donna was having trouble getting comfortable and we both got up and went into our living room where I tried several things to get her comfortable, including even bringing my office chair into the room and positioning her at a particular angle as to take pressure from her back and that didn’t help. We took her blood pressure and it was through the roof. Without wasting any time we went to the ER at Conway Regional Medical Center and they admitted us to labor and delivery immediately. This sort of scared me because I knew that Shelby wasn’t quite ready to be delivered yet, our best chances for viability were still about 2 weeks away and the fact that we were going to labor and delivery more or less numbed me. In my mind I thought that something must be wrong with Shelby. Once we were situated in our room at Conway Regional they came in and checked Shelby out on the doppler and ultrasound and she was doing great. We started praising God immediately, and for a minute I thought everything was going to be okay because in the past we have always been able to get Donna’s blood pressure under control.
For those of you that don’t know my wife Donna, she is the toughest woman I know. Her pain threshold is incredible, she never complains. She was laying in the hospital bed laughing at the occasional joke I would throw her way just to relieve some of the stress that being in a hospital can bring on. In my mind I thought everything was going to be okay. The nurses came in and drew labs on her to check her levels, they also did an ultrasound on her gallbladder to find that she had a lot of gallstones. In my mind I thought, okay this is going to be her gallbladder, still not a biggie, we can get through this. Ultimately the nurse came back in and informed us that her labs were not good at all, her liver enzymes were climbing and her blood platelets were extremely low, these, in tandem with her high blood pressure indicate a serious condition called preeclampsia and that we were fixing to be transferred to UAMS because Donna’s life was in danger. On the inside I was scared but in my mind I knew that Donna was a fighter and that God wouldn’t have brought us this far for something like this to happen. I rode in the ambulance w/ her to UAMS (we knew one of the people on the ambulance) and we were admitted immediately to a room where Doctors and nurses immediately went to work trying to lower Donna’s BP that had spiked to a pretty dangerous level at this point. I prayed a lot harder than I have ever prayed in my life for God to spare both of my girls.
The lead doctor came by and met w/ us and went on to order more labs on Donna to see where everything was at and to ensure that the labs taken at Conway Regional were accurate I guess. Donna is a tough stick when it comes to drawing blood, at one point during this ordeal I watched nurses try for almost two hours to get a vein in her arm. I didn’t expect to see that doctor again that evening but when the labs came back he pulled me into the hallway and prepared me to accept the fact that 1) Shelby was going to be coming into the world early with the odds of her survival very low, and 2) it was a real possibility I would leave the hospital without my baby girl and my wife. I have never felt the range of emotions that came next before in my life, one second I wanted to hit my knees and pray to God and ask WHY? and in another breath I wanted to punch this doctor in the face for no apparent reason. I went back into the room and Donna was finally starting to stabilize and we had a very tough conversation about what was ahead of us. In our hearts we believed and still believe that God could bring Shelby through this with no problem at all because of who he is, the inventor and creator, all things are possible with God. That evening Donna’s BP continued to spike and I watched as her condition deteriorated, at one point she was completely coherent one minute and totally aware of everything and the next she was talking about things that made no sense at all. I can’t explain to you how that made me feel to witness the love of my life in this condition.
Donna and I prayed together and cried together for the next couple of hours and the next morning the doctors came in and based on her most recent labs and her unstable blood pressure they had all met and agreed that they were going to have to induce labor to save Donna’s life. At this point I think we had about half a million people praying and believing with us for a miracle on Facebook and we felt this peace that passes all understanding about what was going to have to happen. I remember Donna’s hospital room became so still when I grabbed her hand and we locked hands with our parents who were in the room and I started praying. I was doing my best to remain strong for her sake as I led us in prayer but the gravity of everything came down on my so hard I just broke down. This set off a chain reaction of everyone breaking down. I can remember my dad and her dad breaking down and our moms hugging one another, neither one of them able to catch their breath. Somehow we managed to complete our prayer and pull ourselves together. I made the phone call to Donna’s sister Bridgette, who is a nurse in Oklahoma City, and told her that she should probably come into town because we honestly didn’t know what was fixing to happen next. A few hours later she joined me alongside Donna’s bed as the physicians induced labor. The process to induce labor can vary from case to case and the doctors told me it could take up to 22 hours before she was ready to deliver.
Fully prepared for this process and what what was about to happen I started thinking about Donna and how this was going to affect her down the road. You see, with her Lupus, stress can throw her into a life-threatening flare in a matter of minutes so I didn’t want this traumatic image to be burned into her mind forever and for her to think about it later and go into this full on flare that threatened her life. I met w/ the doctors and asked them to honor some requests that I had regarding how the delivery was going to take place. I requested that there be a sheet up so that Donna and I could be behind it and not witness any of the process if Shelby wasn’t going to make it. I also asked that a wide variety of narcotics be administered through the day so that she would be more or less “front row at Pink Floyd concert”, my exact words. They all agreed that they would make sure this happened. Well, that’s not how it happened, but it wasn’t their fault.
At the moment that Donna started having contractions she started telling us that it was the catheter that was bothering her, and she was having leg pains. Looking back I should have known that it wasn’t the catheter, she can put a catheter in herself and has on numerous occasions and she has never complained. Instead this was Shelby making her way into this world. Finally, when Donna was screaming out in agony I was panicking and calling a friend who is an anesthesiologist to see what other meds could be administered to make her comfortable and suddenly, with Bridgette and I both standing alongside her bed, Donna gave birth to Shelby Mae. This bay girl that I had made up my mind not to see until I got to Heaven was laying there lifeless on the bed with Donna. Donna was trying to raise her head to see what had just happened but Bridgette and I quickly grabbed a foam wedge and threw it onto her chest while Bridgette ran into the hallway to get the nurses. The next few moments consisted of me comforting Donna while the nurses cut the cord and rushing Shelby into another room to do what little they could do to keep her with us. Their efforts were in vain, as we felt in our spirits they would be.
The doctor came back into the room and prepared me for the next 2-6 hours of what was going to happen next. The placenta was still going to have to come out and that was a waiting game but that it wouldn’t be as horrific as what we had just endured. I sat beside Donna until 4am that night when the nurses came in and did what they had to do. Donna was in a lot of pain and her BP was again starting to spike. The doctors told me that Donna had HELLP Syndrome, the most severe form of preeclampsia and that we might be looking at a 2-3 week recovery time for her, even though the baby was gone. More or less they were telling me that everything had to run it’s course. I asked for guarantees that she was going to be okay and no one would give them to me. I hit my knees and started praying alongside her bed while she was in a deep sleep and I asked God to spare my girl because life without her was something I couldn’t even imagine. Just thinking about this moment now moves me to tears but at the time God had given us such peace that I was able to hang on to my thoughts and be sharp despite the fact that I had had very little sleep until this point. Again, this was confirmation that God was with us because before I knew God I would have blown up and probably started trashing the entire hospital until I was admitted into the psych ward.
The next night Donna was laying in bed complaining about being congested, she was blowing her nose and all of a sudden blood started pouring out of her nose and she began coughing up blood. It was everywhere and I went into a panic. I was told later that since her blood platelets were so low that it was a particularly dangerous situation because her blood wouldn’t clot. A team of nurses came in and went to work on helping her get the bleeding stopped and finally she slipped back into a peaceful sleep with the help of some hardcore narcotics.
Once Donna’s BP started spiking again they moved us to another floor where they could focus on her BP and monitor her lab results more clearly. It was on the 6th floor that we met a nurse, Terrye, that was also a believer, and who attended the Cabot campus of our church, NLC.
At this point we were dazed by everything that had transpired and God used her to help us collect our thoughts and to come to terms with the reality of where we were at and reinforced the fact that we were going to get better and were going to go home! One evening we had several visitors show up at the same time to visit Donna, if you know Donna and I, we are social people and love to entertain. I thought that Donna was okay w/ everyone being in the room and I think she did too but out of nowhere she started hyperventilating and was having trouble breathing. A team rushed into the room and I stood back and watched as they went to work on her to bring her BP back under control and get her calmed down. I stepped out into the hallway and asked the family to go home and told them that I would keep them updated on everything via text messages. It was hard but they all headed home. While I was in the hallway Donna confided w/ Terrye that she suddenly had the thought cross her mind what I would do if she didn’t pull through. I was also having these thoughts but hadn’t aired them to anyone because I was trying to remain strong. Terrye pulled me aside and shared w/ me her conversation w/ Donna and once I got myself pulled together I went back into the room and we held each other, prayed, cried, and started the process of healing the emotional aspect of these events.
The team at UAMS continued to work on Donna’s BP to bring it under control with very little luck until they administered one particular drug that I had remembered brought her under control a few nights earlier. Adding this drug to her current roster of medications seemed to be working, even though her labs weren’t getting any better, at least the BP was stabilizing. It was around this time that I decided I would share w/ Donna some of the Facebook posts and tweets that people had been sending us in hopes to reinforce something that God had started to show me as to why in the world this was all happening, I will share this now…
When I was in deep prayer with God I asked him why in the world this was happening to us. I told him that he must not have been hearing our prayers and seen how faithful we were because we didn’t deserve what we he had allowed to happen to us. He then showed me in my spirit that he chose us to bear this trial because he knew our faith and he knew that we could endure what had to happen for his glory. All along we had praying that his will be done regarding this pregnancy, and that’s exactly what had happened in some roundabout way. You see, all through this process I was receiving emails and text messages from people that were telling me that they hadn’t prayed or talked to God in years but that this past week they had been hitting their knees on our behalf in prayer and they wanted to thank us for sharing our tragedy with them because it brought them to a conversation with God that they wouldn’t normally have had. Had I just received one or two messages like this it wouldn’t have had near the impact, but I literally received dozens of messages along these lines saying pretty much the same thing. I also had a couple of people that were dealing with tragedies in their life tell us that our faith and endurance was inspiring them to pull through their situations. We had no idea. Granted, we know the power of prayer, but never before had we felt that God was using us as part of his plan like he was. He was using us the entire time but we didn’t know it.
God also showed me later that what he allowed us to endure was similar in a lot of ways to what he endured when his son was on the cross. Granted, our suffering was on a lot smaller scale, but it was very real and very similar. God also reminded me of the peace that we felt come over our room in the hours leading up to what was the most horrific events in our life, he showed us that he knew we would have an army of prayer warriors supporting us and lifting us up throughout this event and he sent his peace to cover us throughout our assignment. This peace wasn’t just evident to Donna and I either, our pastor, Rick Bezet, mentioned this peace in his message this past weekend after he had visited with us. It was a very real peace that I can’t describe. In the past day or so God has also shown to me that with the hand we were dealt that a lot of people are going to look to us to see how we handle everything. Are we going to falter or stumble? Are we going to love God less or more because of what he allowed us to endure? After spending the first night home in our own bed I woke up this morning not knowing where in the world to start pulling my life back together and God used a close friend, Tim via Skype, to allow me to get a few things out there so that I could finally start my day with a supernatural motivation.
The enemy has tried a lot of things to pile onto what we are already dealing with to bring us down, in fact this month already I have bumped heads with the IRS and our bank, who somehow screwed up one of our accounts so bad by not doing our automatic deposits that it’s going to take me a few days to sort out. But you know what, that’s all he can do. It’s his only hope. The reason he is coming against us so hard right now is because he knows that if he can distract us for one moment we will have less of an impact for the kingdom of God. We aren’t allowing that. Yes, we are still hurting, the door to our nursery has remained closed since we got home. The monogrammed blankets, clothes, and baby stuff that we had acquired for Shelby are all inside of a box that we will open one day when we feel led to do so. Yes, Donna’s BP is still not exactly perfect right now, but it’s getting better by the hour. No, we are not 100% right now, but we are coming back. The first step for me this morning was to share all of this and get it out there so that I can begin to focus on some other things because life goes on. Fortunately we have some very exciting things on the horizon for Pleth and several other projects that I am connected to.
Several of you have asked what you can do for Donna and I. We appreciate your generosity more than you can imagine. One thing that we definitely can’t get enough of right now is your prayers, please keep us lifted up. Secondly, please understand that there is no way possible we can respond to each and every one of your texts, emails, facebooks, or tweets. We would absolutely love to but it’s not physically possible. Just know that love each and every one of you and have felt your prayers. Lastly, a lot of people have offered to bring food over for us, we appreciate you more than you know. Donna is more or less on bed rest and I’m keeping her pretty well on bed rest for at least the next week. Our dear friend April Worley has established a calendar so that we won’t have a lot of food showing up at the same time that will go bad. You can find that calendar here (Calendar ID# 99570 / Security Code: 4303). Please know that we appreciate you all so much.
Donna and I were tuned into NLC’s Internet Campus Sunday morning when Pastor Rick referenced our situation and the peace that we had in his message. You can watch this message below:
Occasionally through the madness and chaos this past week someone would point out a blog post written by friends and acquaintances that was inspired by our situation, I know there were some other ones that aren’t listed below because I can’t locate them but just know we read them and they lifted us up, made us cry, helped us move forward, and lifted us up…
- Some Days Being a Dad is Hard, This is One of Those Days / @jgreghenderson
- The Fabric of Our Lives / @tsudo
- Selfish Gratitude – Damn You Little Rock / @kerrijack
- 40 Days in a Parking Space: Grief / @katiemcmanners