MY STORY AS PART OF HIS STORY
Story by Lisa Tweedy
I gave birth to our second son on a Wednesday. He came about a month early via emergency C section. They took the baby to the NICU right away after he was born and my husband went with him. I remember some family and friends coming to visit. I remember getting a small cake – a birthday cake from the hospital to celebrate my son’s birthday. On Friday my husband went home to spend the night with our 3 year old son. I asked the nurse to wheel me to the NICU to see my baby. He was doing well there and he was beautiful, small but perfectly formed. The nurse wheeled me back to my room. That’s the last thing I remember.
I woke up about two weeks later. They tell me that on Saturday I crashed. They called a code and moved me from mother/baby to the ICU. I was in septic shock. Sepsis had led to dangerously low (at times, immeasurable) blood pressure. My husband says that when they told me they would perform an exploratory laparotomy to determine the cause of my rapid decline, I asked if they would put me to sleep and cried out of relief when they said yes. The pain was severe. The surgery and further bloodwork confirmed that I had a strep A infection in my abdomen that had led to necrotizing fasciitis. Commonly known as the “flesh-eating bacteria,” it is an infection that results in the death of the body’s soft tissue. It spreads rapidly and is treated with IV antibiotics and surgery to remove the infected tissue. Despite high quality treatment, about 1 out of 4 loses their life.
Since they knew I would have to undergo many more surgeries, I was put in a medically induced coma and on a ventilator. The surgeries were successful in stopping the spread of the infection. My husband was with me when they performed tests to make sure that I could breathe on my own before removing the ventilator. He says I signed “I love you” to him after he explained why I couldn’t speak. It took many days to understand what had happened and what to expect next. I had a large open wound on my abdomen. I was treated with a wound vac and had dressing changes. I spent a month altogether in the hospital and carried the wound vac another 2 months at home until I was able to have a skin graft to cover the wound. During that time I also had physical therapy to be able to walk and get dressed and to rebuild my strength.
While I was enduring things physically, there were also emotional struggles. I was unconscious when they released my sweet baby from the NICU and he went home. My heart aches when I think of the beautiful moments I missed – like our 3 year old meeting the baby for the first time. I longed to see the baby, to hold him – but I did not want him so small and fragile to come back to the hospital where I was. I didn’t want my three year old to see me as I was, with IVs in my arm, hand, and neck and a tube in my nose. I was so afraid my relationship with our three year old would be different when I came home. I didn’t want him to think I had left or abandoned him. And then I couldn’t care for the baby. Even holding him was difficult because if he moved at all, it tugged on the retention sutures still in my stomach. Imagine hearing your baby cry and not being able to get up, pick him up, hold, comfort or feed him. It was a very hard time for our family.
As a Christian, there are things that I knew distantly about God that I now know intimately. I claim the following truths not as something I’ve heard from someone else, or as something I’ve read about, but as something I have lived: There is a God that holds our life-breath (Job 12:10). At no time is that more abundantly clear than when you are dying. From Him and through Him and for Him are all things (Romans 11:36). I had no authority over the situation and He had all authority (Matthew 28:18). In my complete weakness, physically and spiritually, His grace was sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9) and His power was made perfect.
I once read that the refuge of the people of God is not a refuge from suffering or death, but a refuge from final and ultimate defeat. What truth! Children of God have nothing to fear – to die is gain Paul says in Philippians 1. In Philippians 4 we are reminded that we possess, through Jesus Christ, a peace that surpasses all understanding. This peace is astounding when life as you know it, life as you planned it, is falling apart. This peace can only come from God.
The prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective (James 5:16). Our Christian family prayed for us without ceasing as my husband would send them updates. On two occasions our Sunday School class came to the hospital waiting room to share a meal and spend time in prayer for our family. The coolest part is that I know they were praying not just for me to live and recover, but for God’s will to be done and His glory to be displayed. Our brothers and sisters reminded us of Gospel truths (John 9:1-3), brought food to my husband in the hospital, fed us for weeks after I returned home, helped with the baby, mowed our lawn and showed very powerfully what a Gospel-centered community looks like. We are so grateful for each and every one who prayed and ministered.
I look back over this time and wonder, how would it have been different if I did not know Christ? When I say “know Christ,” I do not mean religious, or “good,” or that I said the prayer when I was little, but that I have a relationship with Him as Lord and Savior. I shudder to think of the fear and despair. Repent and believe (Romans 10:9)! Get to know the one who knows the number of hairs on your head (Matthew 10:30). In Christ, you are fully known and fully loved/accepted and adopted as sons and daughters of the Most High God. I beg you to gaze upon the glory of the one who would die for you and for me! It is of imminent – and eternal – significance.