To describe this past week, is truly one word.
I will do my best to sum up, what I have witnessed unfold before my very eyes.
Having had some time to reflect,
it is just awesome to see God’s handiwork in this entire story.
Our reinforcements of Derek’s parents, Gavin, Alex, Whitney via phone, Scarlett and Janelle helped so much. Derek’s family really spent quality time with Gavin. Being in ICU is not a fun place for a teenager and a two year old. I was so grateful they were there. I couldn’t have done it without all of them.
It was on Friday afternoon, I was napping next to Derek in ICU, and a man appeared and woke me up. It was a pastor who I had never met before but years ago I went to High School with his daughter Sheila. He had read my blog, and just took it upon himself to show up and pray with us. Pretty awesome. Thank you Shelia for sending your Dad.
I went in the hallway not to wake Derek, and within a few minutes, saw Dr. Yang walk by. Excusing myself for a few minutes, to talk with Dr. Yang the neuro surgeon, it was the look on his face that concerned me. Since it was the afternoon, an odd time for him to being doing rounds, usually they did rounds in the early morning. He was still in his scrubs as if he had just come from surgery.
When he saw me, out of great concern he said, “Sarah, can Derek hear?” I looked at him sort of confused and said, “Yes, of course he can hear. He has been communicating with me ever since he came out of surgery last night.”
He let out the biggest smile. Then Dr. Yang said, “We monitored his hearing all during surgery. Since he is almost deaf on the left side, I was so worried that if he lost hearing on his right, he would be learning sign language. He could have been deaf.”
Standing there, Dr. Yang and I looked at a sleeping Derek in ICU. It hit me like a ton of bricks.
Derek could have come out of this surgery, using a walker/wheelchair and deaf.
I knew this surgery was so risky. It’s why I sent a blog out the night before to all of you, to pray you like meant it.
And you did.
Over 21,500 people read my blog and prayed for Derek.
That is like a stadium full of people covering Derek in prayer. There are no words how this humbly drops me to my knees and thank all of you. When we were weak, thousands of you had my entire family’s back.
I looked at Dr. Yang and said, “You were our miracle. I prayed for this miracle for over four years.”
He looked me in the eyes and said, “No you guys are the miracle. This was all God.”
Then he told me, ‘Your husband is one muscular dude. For not being in active for over four years, his muscle mass is fantastic. Athlete condition. He is one strong guy.”
You see, during the entire procedure, which was longer than they thought due to his thick skull, it took 30 more minutes just to get into his skull. His vitals never once changed. Standing there with Dr. Yang, it was like I could almost vision the angels in the surgical room and God guiding the surgeons hands.
When Dr. Yang left, and I went back to the pastor waiting for me, i knew God sent this pastor to me, to wake me up so I could have that talk with Dr. Yang.
Derek, miraculously woke up from surgery without any of the horrific complications. In fact his ICU nurses over and over again have commented on how incredibly healthy he is. No one at all questions the Shaklee protein drinks and supplements I give him. For Derek’s condition speaks for itself. God most certainly has given us all we need. I can’t imagine Derek’s condition without a healthy lifestyle and all the supplements he has taken.
All patients use an incentive spirometer. It’s basically a tube that a person breathes into after a surgery to expand their lungs and keep them clear. You can get pneumonia real easy after surgery if you don’t get your lungs to expand. This happened to Derek during one of his previous surgeries. Janelle taught him how to use it, and this time, Derek was hitting 5000 on the incentive spirometer. It was the highest the ICU nurses and Janelle ever had a patient do before.
When Dr. Sun came from neuro surgery, he removed the dressing for our first glimpse of Derek’s incision. This Doctor was like an artist when it came to stitching a surgical patient. He explained how he stitches like a plastic surgeon. Using the patient’s own blood and stitching each layer individually together. The blood has protein and will help it heal, he told us. He looked most pleased as to how Derek’s stitches looked and said “In time, you will not even notice this scar.”
They removed a piece of Derek’s skull, he now has a metal plate covering the hole they entered through and they use the piece of skull to make a bone wax to cover the hole inside. The hole no one thought existed. Unbelievable.
Within 48 hours, after surgery Derek was off all heavy narcotic IV drugs, and just taking a few medications temporarily to reduce the brain from swelling, and Tylenol.
Don’t get me wrong. He is sore, hurting, and still is off balance, has some dizziness, and a lot of pressure. But for right now all these things are expected after a brain surgery.
The morning of the surgery, Derek was so miserable BEFORE the surgery with his typical symptoms, that he is actually feeling better already, compared to what he was feeling. He hasn’t had one migraine up to this point. This surgery has made me realize the extent Derek has suffered. His normal symptoms before this surgery were worse than the recovery from a brain surgery. I do not say this for pity on Derek. Anyone who knows Derek, knows he wouldn’t want that. But the reality is this man has suffered horrifically every single day with no break. How he has survived all this time, was truly God holding him every moment of everyday. And he fought with that strength to get back to his family.
Since he was doing so well, and insurance wanted to kick us out of the hospital, the surgeons both agreed the next big thing to be concerned about is staff infection. He would be better to be out of the hospital than in. Too many germs. Dr. Gopen gave me his personal cell number and said to call or text at anytime. How awesome is that? ICU nurses commented how the surgeons don’t normally do this. And let me tell you, with in a matter of a couple minutes, Dr. Gopen responded to me if I texted him.
Dr. Gopen and Dr. Yang, will forever hold a special place in our hearts. Forever.
The staff in ICU was incredible as they witnessed with me this unfolding miracle. A true friendship formed. Kathryn, Breanna, Nery,we love you all. Derek referred to Kathryn and Breanna as ‘his girls’. I think they reminded him of Alex and Whitney, his daughters. To all the wonderful night nurses, especially Robert with his British accent who made me laugh in the middle of the night, you are our heroes for what you do. Thank you.
I felt at piece that we were leaving. For a high risk patient, he left on a normal time frame that most patients go through this surgery.
A first time for being normal in a long time.
Thank you God.
We took Derek to the hotel where his parents and Alex were staying.
Snickerdoodles acted like I had never seen before. She was so happy to see Derek. She couldn’t stop licking him.
Scarlett, though she was terrified at first at Derek’s incision, and kept saying over and over “Bubba hurt’! She just wanted to be by him. Since she wasn’t allowed in ICU, this was her first time seeing him. Her heart is so gentle and compassionate. She doesn’t not like to see anyone in pain.
The next day, we drove Derek home, to our new camper. Hit very little traffic and made it back in about an hour.
Pulling up to our desert of a campground, it hit me. We aren’t on vacation! This is our home.
Getting Derek settled in, emotions of saying goodbye to family was not easy. There really has been no time to process any of this. I know that must sound ironic. We have had four years. But since this past December, we sold our home, moved in with friends. Flew to Florida twice, California once, moved again into a 1 bedroom apartment, bought a camper, moved into the camper, drove 33 hours over several days, making many stops to see loved ones, checked of some of Derek’s bucket list, and drove through harsh conditions with a 42 ft trailer behind us, to a campground in the desert foothills of LA. Several doctors appts, scans, MRI’s, and then brain surgery.
It was really hard on Gavin when family left. Derek reminded him, “Gavin we are pioneers. This is what pioneers do. We do what most won’t. Many adventures lay ahead of us. And we are going to see all our family again. But for now, this is our adventure.” He reminded Gavin that he WILL take him hiking soon. And Gavin being the most awesome 14 year old just smiled.
Gavin has helped me with Derek and been by his side as he always has the past 4 years. Gavin was supposed to be confirmed this coming Sunday on Mother’s Day. Our pastor called us yesterday, and they are going to virtually confirm him during the actual ceremony on Sunday. A first, in our church. What can I say? Gavin is a pioneer of a virtual world. Sometimes when life just doesn’t go the way you want, you just have to think outside the box. Alex will stand in his place at the front of church with an I pad, and Gavin will get to virtually see as if he was standing with his class. Gavin, you are my hero. All I can say, is God has BIG plans for you buddy. Your willingness to laugh, be flexible, and adapt to just about anything will build you for something great one day.
Last night, and today, Derek has been the most ‘off balance’ feeling. And the grueling days of recovery are now upon us. Almost in some ways rougher than in the hospital. To be expected.
The next big question is are Derek’s horrible symptoms gone? The doctors prepared us, that we won’t know for awhile. The swelling that he has still needs to come down. Which naturally takes time. Dr. Yang told me what to look for. Signs that Derek feels ‘different.’ We have both noticed several things that are definitely different, and some things that he can’t tell yet. Very hopeful indeed.
He will definitely need to go through vestibular therapy. And will begin therapy once the swelling subsides to help him recover from the off balance feeling. But we pray this time, his brain is actually able to find a new pathway to be able to finally compensate for the damage side. Slow and steady, and great patience now is what Derek needs to endure.
He said to me last night, “If there is one thing I have learned is patience.”
So here is where I have to tell you a true confession.
I was incredibly scared for this surgery. I have had dealt with anger over the past four years of so many doors that closed on Derek in the medical community. So many weren’t willing to look outside the box with me. Instead, they just said, “I’m so sorry.” And closed the door. Anger for Doctors accusing me of being an “over enthusiastic wife.”
Here’s the real truth. I’m not a strong wife. I’m not any different than any of you. The only difference, is I’m married to an incredible man who suffered horrendously for almost 4.5 years. I believe in miracles, and even when I was scared, I chose to believe. Because I had nothing to lose. It was during the times when I was too tired and scared, that I surrendered. That is when God picked me up through all your prayers and carried me.
Derek, either way will be healed. In this life, or the next. When you believe like that you still are scared and terrified for the unknown on earth, but I had made my peace knowing that God has this. The moments I begin to doubt that, is when all of you covered me in prayer.
We don’t know if Derek will be 100% healed, or I will get my wish to dance again with my husband in loud music. Go to public places and not have the world screaming at him. To reach summits and travel the world. But whether I dance with him in silence or loud music, my heart remains the same for him.
Here is our new address for those of you that want to send Derek encouraging messages as he recovers and prepares for the next phase of this journey. Grueling therapy. The one thing I ask is that you flood him with funny positive faith filled messages. He has no idea how many he has touched. Fill his new PO BOX with well wishes as he recovers. I want him to feel so loved.
May 4th, 2017 was Derek’s independence day. In many ways, both Derek and I feel as if we have been given a second chance at life. And we both intend to use it wisely.
During the whole surgery, of 7 hours, my bible was with me. For a while, there was a Hispanic man sitting close by me. He had his Spanish bible with him. Though our books were in different languages, they were the same book. Though we couldn’t communicate with words, I knew that he was in the same waiting room as I was. He had a loved one in surgery. Through tear filled eyes, we would both look at each, smile, and hold tightly onto the ‘Good Book’. I knew he prayed for my husband just as I said a prayer for his loved one. I cannot imagine going through this journey with out faith. How empty life would be. There would be no hope. Maybe it’s time, you dust off the ‘Good Book’. Get into a bible class where someone who has studied can help you understand. Don’t try to read it by yourself. Maybe it’s time, you white knuckle the ‘Good Book’ and stop trying to figure out life on your own.
Our one hope is this, for the thousands following this journey, whether you believe or not, no one can deny, Derek making it through this surgery is a shining example of prayer works.
“For where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them.”
Keep praying. Keep believing.
Keep dreaming. Keep living.
Sarah Hein the Pioneer