Christianity and God Life Marriage

Broken Vessels

Walking down the dark hallway, backstage of our church, heading into the second half of what had been an inspiring and moving day, Pastor DawnChere ran by me.  Actually ran.  It was like a blurry view out of a taxi in New York City while it’s raining and everything around you is moving fast but the traffic is slow.  “Rick fell!” she said with a serious tone, bordering a scream.  I didn’t understand what she meant.  He fell?  Oh, no big deal.

But, her running and the tone of her voice and the speed of her run down this dark hallway told me this was a big deal.

We had been standing outside in an unseasonably hot Miami day for about 45 minutes after Rick was interviewed at a conference at our church.  We took pictures.  Laughed.  Talked with our church family.  And it was time to head back in for the rest of the day, the rest of the conference, the rest of Jesus doing His miracles through powerful words from humble, brilliant, creative humans.

I opened the door, Rick just steps behind me.  I walked down the hallway.

Rick fell…she said with a serious tone…

I turned around and he, in fact, wasn’t behind me.  I ran to the end of the hallway, opened the doors from dark to light, the sun so bright, the heat palpable.  Five or six people are crowded in the short distance, maybe 50-75 feet from me.  I see a glimpse of my husband, on the ground and my head spins.  Crippled and shocked, my physical body would not move me closer.

He’s dead, I thought.

People surround me, I don’t know who.  I still, to this day, cannot remember most people who had been a part of this moment in my life.  My body moves me to the ground and all I can do is cover my hands to my face.  Suffocating.  The visual of my husband being surrounded by people – not me – because he fell.  That visual.  He did not just fall.  I believe him to be dead.

Someone is with me.  Perhaps multiple people are with me.  I am trying to cry but can’t.  It’s blurry.  It’s fast.  It’s slow motion. I look at that someone and ask, “is he dead?”  as my whole body was frozen, my eyes dry and head chaotic.

No.

My body moves me closer to him and now, there are doctors and nurses there saying and doing things they are supposed to be saying and doing in a moment like this.

He’s alive. 

I lose control and finally, the tears flow down my face.  “Did someone call an ambulance?  Where is help?  What if he dies?  WHERE IS THE AMBULANCE?”

He’s alive.

And this, I remember.  Pastor Robyn Wilkerson is with me.  I believe she may have been with me the whole time.  She holds on to me.  She is calm.  She looks me square into the eyes and says, “he is going to be okay.  We are getting help and Rick is going to be okay.”

The peace of God came over me like a beautiful white Midwest snowfall in early December.

I see Rick moving and I see a team of angels around him.  My body still will not let me go close to him.

Someone prays with me.

I curse, I scream, because I am confused on why an ambulance isn’t here and if this is a matter of life and death, I cannot bear an ambulance not arriving for one more minute.

Someone prays with me.  Pastor Wilkerson affirms the situation and again, brings that peace back to me.  It’s so hot.  I feel like I am having an out-of-body experience.  

The ambulance arrives.  Men carry my husband into this big red vehicle and do what ambulance men do.  And I look at one of these men and ask if Rick is going to be okay

I don’t remember what he said.

We drive to the hospital and I ride shot gun because I am not allowed to be in the back with my husband.  Why, because he is going to die?  And they know it and aren’t telling me?  Because it’s that serious the spouse cannot be there to witness worst case scenario.

The traffic is terrible.  And drivers are inconsiderate.  We are carrying my injured husband and said drivers are late to their nail appointments.  To their lunch dates.  To nothing that compares to being late to your impromptu emergency room visit with your injured husband.  And they are in the way.

We arrive to the ER.

I sit with Rick in what feels like a horse stable.  A row of small, cold and dark spaces with a mere curtain separating humans amidst what feels like life and death.  Life and death.  Blood and screaming.  Sick and injured people in Mt. Sinai’s emergency room.  Stables.

For the next 6 hours, Rick screams in pain.  He begs me to make it stop.  I can do nothing.  I beg for drugs.  He can’t have drugs because they are unsure of the severity of his injury and drugs can interfere, could have fatal side effects.  I still beg.  Rick screams.  For hours.  I sit in our stable with minimal cell service and our church has taken care of Zoey and I don’t even know what to type, to who to type to.  What do I even say?  I hope Zoey is okay.  What if she doesn’t have her daddy?  Is she sad or confused?  Do I tell someone what happened?

Doctors come in.  Nurses come in.  Administrators come in.  Testing and testing and testing.  Waiting and waiting and waiting.  And Rick screams because the pain is unbearable, like laboring and delivering a child without drugs. Except without the miracle and joy of a tiny, beautiful human at the end.  He is mad at me because I can’t help him.  I step outside of our stable, I close the curtain and I weep.  I am exhausted, scared, hopeless.

Two women come in to see me.  Doctors or nurses or administrators, I don’t recall.  One, seemingly the more seasoned, the one in charge, looks at me and tells me, “your husband had a very serious accident.  He has a bleed in his brain.  And he fractured his skill in two places.  And it’s bigger and more complicated than we thought…”

Brain bleed.  Fractures.  It’s complicated.  It’s serious.

Head spinning, the blurry view of the world takes over and I look at this woman and her colleague and I cry.  And they wipe my tears.  Literally.  And they look at me like Pastor Robyn Wilkerson did and tell me it’s going to be okay.

I don’t question it, I embrace the words, the comfort, the hope.  Because I have nothing else and when you are empty, you will take anything for replenishment.

Rick is still in pain as the ER doctors and nurses evaluate him.  They ask him if he knows me.  He says yes, that’s (insert woman’s name I can’t remember).  I cripple over in so much pain.  A pain I have never experienced.

My husband doesn’t know me.  Will he ever know me again?

I call Rey, Rick’s best friend and he arrives with me within the hour.  In our stable.  I weep in his arms.

The next 11 nights I will spend in and out of the hospital, off work, being Rick’s caregiver and representative in the hospital.  Each day approximately 10-15 doctors and nurses and administrators come in for various reasons.  Each day Rick is monitored, poked, taken for tests, wheeled back.  He sleeps.  He doesn’t eat.  He doesn’t walk.  He doesn’t talk.

And each day people from our church show up.  Our pastors came in and pray over Rick, with me.  They send food.  People sat in the waiting room on the various floors Rick resided and I had zero to offer and my sadness and confusion was too overwhelming that I could not see almost anyone.  Yet they still stayed, without seeing me – or Rick – and prayed.  As I type, my heart almost can’t handle how much so many people gave.  Their time, their money, their love, their compassion, their prayers. Rey.  He was with me with whole way.   My bible study women showed up and prayed like I have never seen.  Friends of friends of friends prayed.  My mom and Rick’s mom flew down to care for Zoey – and me.  Cards, flowers, texts, emails, calls, prayers, love.  Surrounded by love.  God has His hand in this.

I could type a thousand more words about the daily details of Mt. Sinai but I won’t.  I will type you only a few words:

Confusing.

Cold.

Scary.

Hopeful.

Hopeless.

Stark.

Enough.

Disorganized.

Healing.

I drove home each night from the hospital around 9 or 10pm.  There was no traffic and it was in those moments I cried out so loudly to God.  I begged Him to spare Rick’s life.  Take mine, spare his.  Take mine, spare his.  Please Jesus, not now.  Zoey needs a dad.  And the song Broken Vessels comes on the radio.

I look at my radio dashboard area and I see the words Broken Vessels.  And it’s blurry.  The tears down my face are like those New York City rain drops on a taxi cab, causing the surroundings to become washed out and blurred.  The atmosphere is moving fast yet my whole being has stopped.  Rick’s vessels…are broken.

Oh I can see You now
Oh I can see the love in Your eyes
Laying Yourself down
Raising up the broken to life
Oh I can see You now
Oh I can see the love in Your eyes
Laying Yourself down
Raising up the broken to life
Oh I can see You now
Oh I can see the love in Your eyes
Laying Yourself down
Raising up the broken to life

I sing the lyrics and I cry out to God.  I weep, so desperate, so confused.

I arrive home.  I am tired and broken.  I sleep the second my head hits the pillow. I wake up and do it all over again.

Rick was released from the hospital with what felt like vague information that lacked the black and white we all desired.  No heart attack.  No stroke.  No.  (Thank God.)  But what was uncovered was critical.  He was diagnosed with A-Fib.  He has vasovagal syncope (uncovered a year or so earlier when he fainted at our house and I took him to the ER…it was affirmed this time again) which is a fancy term for fainting.  And.  When he was little, he fell off of a swing and damaged 1 of the 2 main arteries that run up your neck to your brain.  Thus, he really is – and has been – left only with 1 strong artery which has compensated for him his whole life.  The body is brilliant.  God is brilliant.  But, broken vessels.

And net net, that is it.  Arteries and heart.  He had fainted, fell backwards, on concrete and an incremental cement brick where he double fractured his skull and incurred a brain injury and a significant brain bleed.

Why the faint?  Perhaps him not feeling well the previous 24-36 hours had a role in this.  Perhaps him not sleeping the night before had a role.  Perhaps him not eating much the previous 24 hours had a role.  Perhaps standing in the heat, in a suit, for an hour straight had a role.  Perhaps.

Regardless, we weathered the storms of those days and we were prayed for and taken care of.  Doctors and neighbors and colleagues.  God surrounded us with the love of the church, our church, Vous church.  The people inside of this church I don’t know will ever know the depth of my gratitude and humility towards their love and support.  Our church in Chicago, Park Community, rallied and prayed and man, I don’t know even how to say thank you.  Our family, our friends.  My mom who showed up the next day.  Rick’s mom who stayed with us once Rick was home and I had to go back to work. My bible study ladies.  My best friends from home.  Ricks friends, his current and former employees.

I have dealt with pain before.  And I thought divorce and years of therapy and four miscarriages and many hospital visits and doctor appointments and poking and pricking and ER visits and learning to be a step mom and life.  I thought it was all hard.  And it was.

But this.  This was even harder.  It IS even harder.  And because we serve a loving and gracious God, He surrounded me, He surrounded us, with the people, prayer, the strength that, yet again, would get us through this, ending with a miracle.

First, Zoey.  Now, Rick.

I’d say we are fighters.  That Rick is a fighter.  But I’d also say that our God is the one who really wins these fights on our behalf.  That it is Him.  Time and time again.  Raising up the broken to life.

 

…to be continued

 

 

 

Comments (2)

  • Hi Ann,
    THANK YOU for sharing your story. I am sitting on a plane right now, waiting to take off and working to fight back the tears forming in my eyes and hoping the lump in my throat and sick feeling in my stomach subside before anyone notices. I had no idea that it was so serious and that you both had suffered so deeply. Rick is such a strong and amazing person that it is hard to imagine him being vulnerable to anything. I am so deeply sorry that you had to both go through this, and know you and Rick are probably still fighting your way back. I care very much for Rick, you and Zoey, and although I am still trying to find where God fits in my life, I will stopnto say a prayer for all of you. Dawn & I would love to get down to visit and just need to make the time to do so. Take care and know that we are always thinking of you.

    Reply
    • Thank you so much Ron. Appreciate the note…it has been a tough year but one of redemption. Still a big work in progress…I’ll take the prayers 😉 Please say hi to Dawn! Happy Holidays!

      Reply

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