Thursday, April 5, 2018

when my sister-in-love got a new heart

Most of you know by now, of my sister-in-love, Tracy.  She is 42, almost 43, actually, and since she was about 20 or 21, she has had a rare disease called Takayasu's arteritis.  To read more about that disease, just consult Google, and they can give you a plethora of information about it.  A couple of weeks ago, Tracy was admitted to Vanderbilt hospital in Nashville, because of extreme chest pains.  She was taking a LOT of nitroglycerin without seeing much relief.  Her cardiologist told her that she was not to leave the hospital until she had a new heart.

We knew the day was coming that her heart would just give out, but it was still so shocking to everyone to hear that actually confirmed by her doctors, especially because she is so young.  We also knew that once she was approved and actually put onto the waiting list for a heart transplant, that it could happen at any time.  Her doctor felt like it would happen within about a week, and on Saturday night, before Resurrection Sunday, she got the call, which was right within that one week that her doctor had mentioned.

But let me back up.

A couple of weeks ago in choir practice, I wanted to tell my worship leader that come Resurrection Sunday morning, I may or may not be there.  I realized that may sound irrational, so I didn't say anything, plus he was talking to someone else while I was trying to decide.  Fast forward to Friday night, when I felt compelled to send Tracy an image of a bible verse out of Psalm 91.  I posted it on her Facebook page, and she told me that I was about the third or fourth person that had given her that same exact verse.  It's like the Lord Himself was assuring her that He heard our prayers for her, He knew what she was facing, and He was in control of the situation.

On Saturday, I felt so sick all day.  I think it was the Panda Express that just didn't sit well with me the night before, but for whatever reason, I did nothing all day, except lay on the couch and pray on and off.  I get bored, I pray.  I'm alone, I pray.  I'm in the car, I pray.  It's this habit I've gotten into, and on and off all day, I just kept talking to the Lord about anything and everything.  Just that morning, Tracy had posted on Facebook that Saturday between Good Friday and Jesus' resurrection was one that was hope-filled.  She wrote this: "Today is filled with hope, and we all know that Sunday is coming!"

I have chills!

I'm not saying that I knew what was coming.  But I do know that when I learned of all this, I was in no way surprised that it was happening on that glorious, miracle-filled day.  What an amazing day to receive a new heart!  (Also, please remember the donor family in your prayers.  I cannot imagine their grief, but I thank God for the gift of life they gave to my sister-in-love.)

That night we were going to my dad's house to celebrate his birthday, and my brother Paul was in town from Orlando.  I heard Todd on the phone right before we were leaving, and when I asked him who he was talking to, I was kinda disappointed when he said it was someone other than his mom, dad, or Tim.  I even told him that he had gotten me all excited about the fact that I thought something was going on with Tracy.

We were in the car driving to Dad's, and I was driving which was another little God thing so that Todd could be on the phone nonstop the whole way, when he was talking to his dad about something.  In the middle of that conversation, his dad told him to hold on, that Tim was calling, and with bated breath, we waited.  It didn't seem like it was anything, though, and they kept talking.  All of a sudden, though, everything changed and we found out that Tracy had gotten a donor heart.  We still went to Dad's, but the whole time, we were only half there.  Todd was on his phone the entire time trying to find a hotel, because his mom and dad were on the road already.  (They already had their bags waiting, in case this happened.)  We left pretty fast after dinner, and right before we left, Sandy (my step-mom) prayed for us.  We rushed home, fed the dogs, packed, let the dogs back out, put Chip in his kennel again, and within thirty minutes, were on the road.  Thank the Lord for my son's girlfriend and sister, Rachel and Leah.  They were working that night, but as soon as they were off, they went home and packed, and stayed here until we got back home.  We always need someone to take care of our dogs for us, and it was a relief knowing they were here.  I had nothing to worry about.

We got to our hotel in downtown Nashville near Vanderbilt at eleven thirty.  I showered and we all went to bed.  We were up at five thirty the next morning because breakfast started at 6:30 and her surgery was scheduled for seven.  We ate and took the hotel's shuttle to the hospital.  That was a huge blessing because the garage our car was in was a pain in the neck, it was tiny and hard to get into and out of.  We stayed at the hospital all day long.  Her surgery took most of the day.  With us waiting on her was her husband and oldest son, her parents, Tim's parents, her sister and brother-in-law, her brother and sister-in-law, the six of us, and her two best friends and their husbands.

As I sat there waiting all day, I was in awe of all the family and friends that were there.  What a gift to have such an amazing support system in place for their family.  God moved Ann and Max (her parents) and her sister Kim and brother-in-law Mike to Nashville near them a few months before all of her problems started.  I say God moved them there, because only He has perfect timing like that.  Her sister and brother-in-law had been gone for TWELVE years.  They kept trying to return to Nashville and couldn't, but God made it happen.  Her mom and dad, too...they had tried moving there several years before, but they were still too tied up here in Memphis.  Again, but God did made it happen, in His own perfect timing.  He was literally gathering them to rally around her, because only He could have known what was going to happen.  And her friends.  Goodness gracious, only God could give someone friends like the ones she has.  These friends are feeding them, taking care of their kids and carting them around to where they need to be, they are supporting Tim as he sits at the hospital day in, day out, they bring snacks to the waiting room while he waits with family and friends, and they are the ones who decorated her room to make it more homey for her long term stay at Vanderbilt.  They are praying and their friends are praying.  I heard story after story while we were waiting, of how her life and her testimony has affected the lives of so many.  People who are not believers, are becoming believers and followers of Jesus!  People that haven't uttered a prayer in decades, are now praying down the gates of heaven, on her behalf.

Her own doctor is now quite possibly a believer because of what he saw God do in her life.  I promise you, friends, I am not making any of this up.  Only God knows who all her life and testimony has touched, but she is touching thousands.  Her book is falling into the right hands (you should buy Unstoppable God on Amazon) and the Lord is literally paving the way for her to have life.  Only He could do something like that.  And we don't know what the outcome will be, but we are very hopeful.  We know that no matter the circumstance, He is good, He is sovereign, and we can trust in His perfect plan.  After the first surgery, that night in the middle of the night, she had to go back into surgery because they thought she had developed a blood clot.  It wasn't a blood clot, it turns out, it's that the heart was swollen.  She had a lot of fluid build-up, and because of her small size, the blood wasn't flowing properly.  They took her into surgery a third time around nine or so Monday morning, and after that time, they left her open so they wouldn't have to keep opening up the incision.  We left and came home yesterday, because we knew that it looked good for things to be boring the next few days.  The plan was to close her up by Thursday or the weekend, but today, they were able to do that.  She is now back in the ICU, resting peacefully, prayerfully, and tomorrow they are hoping to get the breathing tube out.  When she awakens more, they'll do some neurological testing, but according to the motor skills tests they've been doing, things look really good for her.

I'm in awe of a mighty God, my friends.  As of Monday morning, things were looking pretty bleak.  I don't mean to sound pessimistic, but realistically, things just did not seem good for her.  But God turned things around.  I believe that with all of my heart.  Like I said before, even if things had turned out very differently, I know that God is always, always good.  Tracy knows that, and her faith was steadfast.  She had the peace that only comes from Jesus, my friends.  I know that Tracy knows what a gift her family and friends are...for years, her friends were the only family she had nearby her.  They've been gone from Memphis for about as long as she's been sick.  I now believe, looking back, that God originally moved them to the Nashville area so that she would be near her doctor and the incredible Vanderbilt hospital.  I'm smiling as I write that...of COURSE He moved them there.  He even moved them into their neighborhood they currently live in.  Her neighbor and close friend is also her nurse in the CVICU.  He is so amazing, that sometimes it just blows my mind.  Looking back is good for my soul.  It makes me reflective of why things happen in our lives the way they do, but it just reaffirms what I already knew: God is in control.

I wanted to share this story, because I know a lot of people didn't know the full version of it, or close to the full version.  I also shared this because I believe someone needs to be reminded of God's trustworthiness today.  They need to be reminded that He sees them, He hears the cries of their hearts, and He has not forgotten them.  We don't know what His will is, but we sure can trust in it.  He is sovereign, which just means we can trust Him even when we don't understand.  Whatever that thing is you've been praying for in your life, I pray that Tracy's story is uplifting to your heart.  I pray you take these words as reassurance that God has not forgotten about you.  It may not be His timing yet, though.  But don't give up.  Don't ever give up.  Do you want to know more about Jesus?  I feel like I say this part all the time.  I implore you, though, examine your heart, ask Him to examine it for you.  If you want to know about Him, reach out.  It's never too late, and we're never promised another day.  Don't wait.

Thank you to all of you who have reached out to me and prayed for Tracy and our family.  We have felt every single one of them.  She is not out of the woods yet, so please keep them up for us.

Love to all.

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