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A Messy Miracle of Mercy

     My wife, Kristina, has had heart troubles since she had untreated strep throat, Asian flu, pneumonia and scarlet fever as a child. These illnesses left her with myocarditis and pericarditis. Her parents were alcoholics, and Kristina and her younger brother, Kirk, were often neglected. She was told by her doctors to never have children because her damaged heart wouldn’t be able to take the strain of childbirth. I’m glad she didn’t make this clear to me until after the last of our four children was born.

     Kristina has lived with arrhythmia, which has often made her heart race. It didn’t stop her from hunting, fishing, hiking, and working hard. But her weak heart causes shortness of breath, and swollen ankles due to poor circulation. For many years she has treated the arrhythmia with medication and has undergone two ablations to reroute the electrical circuits of her heart. After an ablation in April for Atrial Fibrillation (Afib), her cardiologist told us her heart was damaged with scarring similar to someone in their 80’s. Weeks after the ablation, her heart would race 150 -170 beats per minute for hours, even when she was resting. This left her exhausted. She had several visits to the ER where they would shock her heart back into rhythm.

     In early July, Kristina and I were on a ministry and family trip to California when her heart started racing again. She decided to fly home on Sunday morning, July 2, with our son Philip. I was scheduled to preach that morning, and Kristina didn’t want me to accompany her. Neither of us realized what was going to happen.

     She and Philip arrived in Phoenix and went to the ER at Good Samaritan Hospital, where they shocked her heart in an attempt to get it back into proper rhythm. This procedure has helped her in the past, but this time, it only worked for a couple of hours.  

     Since her heart continued to race, the cardiologist put her on a new medication which is supposed to be safe for 98% of patients.  Four hours after they gave her the medication, she flatlined at 2:00 am. Her heart stopped completely. The hospital called a code blue and twenty doctors and technicians rushed into her room. They pounded on her chest for the next sixteen minutes until her heart started again. Moments later, she flatlined again for eight minutes.

     She regained consciousness around noon on July 4. Our kids whispered words of encouragement to her, but then her heart failed again. The trauma team pounded on her once again. The blood from her earlier cardiac arrests had pooled in her lungs and now shot up out of her, covering the RN giving her compressions, creating a dramatic, hopeless scene. Her heart started up after three minutes, but it was so weak, it wasn’t circulating much oxygen for the next forty-five minutes. They put her into a medically induced coma to try to save her.

     That night, one of the doctors explained to our daughter Kelly, that if Kristina survived, she would be severely brain damaged because of the prolonged oxygen deprivation from these episodes. 

     Kristina looked like a corpse. I was crushed seeing my dear wife near death. Our Living Streams Church and many of our friends around the country began to pray for her in earnest. 

     Kristina has been a great wife, mother and woman of God. As often as possible, she does medical missions to Mexico and Honduras. She leads a group ministering to young women, encouraging them in their marriages, work, parenting, and faith. She is the IT Manager for our church and works with our children’s ministry. She makes quilts and catheter bag covers for Hospice of the Valley. She knits baby hats for a hospital in Kenya and Young Lives in Phoenix. She makes pillow cases for foster kids.

     In the midst of this situation, during a time when I was deeply destressed, I opened my Bible and was reading Matthew 21:22, If you believe, you will receive anything you ask for in prayer. It seemed like the Holy Spirit lit up the verse. I had been praying a lot, but I sensed I was being given a prodding by the Lord to expect my prayers to be answered. I was in a battle. My mind was telling me the situation was bleak. Now the Lord was telling me to ask and believe. I began to pray for her with renewed faith.

     Our family gathered around her bedside early Wednesday morning. We cried out to God for a miracle of mercy. The doctors were trying to bring Kristina out of the induced coma to assess her brain function. It was supposed to take an hour or so to revive her. One hour passed, then another, and another, with no movement from Kristina. She was on life support, and it seemed like she must have serious brain damage. Finally, after four and a half hours, she opened her eyes. I was weeping as she squeezed our hands and wiggled her feet. She couldn’t talk because of her breathing tube, but she could understand us.

     The next day, she regained more strength and her pain medicine was reduced. A cardiologist came into her hospital room to discuss giving her a pacemaker. She was able to hold a pen, and she scrawled, “Cannn I shoott?”

     I thought she was delusional. In her medicated, damaged, brain fog, she must have thought she was on a hunting trip and wanted to know if she could fire her gun. Fortunately, the doctor figured out her question. “Do you want to know if we can put the pacemaker on the side of your heart so you can still shoot your gun?”

     In spite of multiple tubes going into her mouth, nose and body, she nodded “Yes.”

     He told her they could put it on whatever side she wanted.

     That was when I realized her brain was functioning just fine. It was only her priorities that needed adjustment.

     A few days later, she had surgery, and they gave her a defibrillator with a pacemaker. Our children, Philip, Kelly and Kathryn, have been sitting at Kristina’s bedside day and night to comfort her in the hospital. There have been setbacks, and many tears shed by all of us. Still, she continues to recover slowly by the grace of God.

     We want to thank all of you who have prayed for Kristina, and our family. I’ve been so upset at times, I’ve needed to be carried by the intercession of my friends. We are blessed by our wonderful friends.

     We have experienced the goodness of God in the land of the living. A messy miracle of mercy.