Catherine, he’s by far the sickest person here.”
I sat on the edge of a chair at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington as an intensive care unit (ICU) nurse explained what was wrong with my husband, Wallace. Just forty-eight hours earlier we’d been enjoying a wonderful, warm spring day, playing on the playground after church with our two daughters—Caroline, age four, and Lucy, eighteen months. Now Wallace was in the ICU on life support, his heart, kidneys, and lungs having failed.
Last year, my forty-one-year-old husband nearly lost his life. The trauma of the experience is on a level that we are still trying to comprehend and process. The healing that took place, however, was even greater.
Caroline was the first to come down with a fever. Soon Wallace had one. Neither had any other symptoms, but when Wallace complained that he couldn’t catch his breath, we headed for the emergency room (ER). Little did we know that he was only a few hours from death.
With blood pressure of 65/20, he was, unbelievably, able to walk into the ER. They tested his heart, took his blood, and tried to give him oxygen. It didn’t help. The ER doctor told Wallace he could be intubated, sedated, and receive oxygen through a ventilator. “Do whatever it takes,” Wallace said. “I just want to be able to breathe.”
So he was sedated and intubated, and that was the last time I talked to him for nearly two weeks.
I remember standing at the edge of the room, looking at my husband, not knowing what was going to happen. Caroline was at home with a fever, in the care of our nanny. I suddenly panicked, wondering whether she, too, might develop breathing problems.
Then I fainted. The next thing I knew I was sitting in a chair being offered juice and crackers. “Do you need to be admitted?” a nurse asked.
“No, I just need some time to recover.” I’ll be fine. I’ll be fine. What will happen to our girls if I too, end up in the hospital?
Soon I met Dr. Jeff Hales—the pulmonologist and critical care doctor from the ICU. I had no idea, then, how important this man would be in saving Wallace’s life.
They thought Wallace had pneumonia, but they weren’t sure why. They had taken cultures of his blood, but it would take forty-eight hours for bacteria—if it was the cause—to grow and reveal what was making him so ill. They were very interested that Caroline, too, had a fever, which led them to believe she and Wallace had contracted the same bug. They gave Wallace broad spectrum antibiotics, oxygen through the ventilator, vasopressors to support his heart, and goodness knows what other medications.
When the first of many bronchoscopies revealed that Wallace had fluid in the pleural space around his lungs, a drainage tube was surgically inserted. He was assigned only the most experienced ICU nurses that week, who worked harder than anyone I’ve ever seen. And more than fifty doctors would work on his case before he eventually left the hospital.
The Body of Christ
In his letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul likens followers of Christ to different parts of the body—all working together in concert. Each part plays a unique and important role. When Wallace’s own body was broken, it was the body of Christ who came to our aid.
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