Guest Author: Jeff Helms
Where do you turn when your wife, through tears and excruciating pain, shares what she fears may be her final request?
“Take care of our daughter, and make sure our son knows Jesus and how much God loves him.”
How do you respond? Where do you look to find strength?
“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” — Psalm 121:1-2
For Laurie and me, the only place to turn on Jan. 31 was our sovereign Lord.
It was a Sunday, like any other. Laurie was helping with the sixth-grade class. I was studying First and Second Peter in the adult wing.
Then, deep inside Laurie’s brain something happened that would reset our priorities, refocus our perspective and refine our faith.
A four millimeter aneurysm — the thickness of two nickels — ruptured. Intense pain, unlike she’d ever experienced gripped Laurie’s body, bringing nausea and numbness to her leg.
Laurie stumbled from the supply room where she was copying activity sheets and fell into the loving arms of a church elder.
Our preacher’s wife found me, and I ran to Laurie’s side. More elders gathered around her to pray as I retrieved our vehicle before speeding away to a nearby hospital.
As we drove those endless miles, Laurie had one request. “Make sure our son keeps loving the Lord.”
You see, our daughter has Down syndrome, and we know where she’ll spend eternity. So, in that moment, a mother’s love was focused not on her health, not on financial security, not even on physical safety, but rather on her son’s spiritual future.
“Lord, give me strength. I know you’ll take care of us no matter what. You always have, but please let Laurie be okay.”
As a journalist, I should have more profound words — a more eloquent prayer. But as I looked into the eyes of my wife, the pain, uncertainty and fear descended on my brain like a fog. My vision narrowed as I searched for direction until all I could focus on was Laurie and the Lord.
I stumbled for words of encouragement and prayers of hope. Unable to formulate complex thoughts and sentences, I leaned on the Holy Spirit.
“Speak for me Spirit. Lord you know my heart. Help me. Help Laurie.”
Little did I know, God already was demonstrating his sovereignty.
Five days earlier, Laurie had an intense headache as I was preparing for work. It scared her, but soon subsided into a dull, lingering pain.
The doctors called it a sentinel bleed. I say it was God preparing us for Sunday morning.
“Don’t wait. This is serious.”
As I fought the panic rising in my gut, God directed us to the right hospital
According to Google maps, our church is between 3.4 and 6 miles from three hospitals. Which one was the best option for a brain aneurysm at 9:45 on a Sunday morning?
The elder who held Laurie as I pulled the truck to the church door suggested an Emergency Room about 5 minutes away.
When we arrived, observant nurses quickly recognized Laurie’s stroke-like symptoms and expedited triage. Within minutes, we met the doctor who quite possibly saved Laurie’s life.
Remember it’s Sunday morning. So, who would we expect to see? Certainly not the director of the emergency department who, by the way, previously worked in a military head injury clinic.
Unless, you believe God is in control. Then, a wise and experienced physician is exactly what you’d expect.
But God didn’t stop there.
He helped this doctor look beyond the easy diagnosis of a migraine and order a CT scan and MRI.
The tests confirmed our fears. Laurie would be transported by helicopter to a larger hospital. But which one?
Alabama’s No. 1. hospital was extremely busy and had been diverting patients for weeks.
Again, God provided a way.
Laurie’s ER Doctor just so happened to be friends with the father of the chief resident of neurosurgery at our preferred hospital. A phone call later, Laurie was on her way.
On the MedEvac flight, Laurie clung to the sovereignty of our God.
“…Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” — Rev. 7:10.
As the sound of the rotors drowned out the world, Laurie heard these words over and over in her mind.
“God is in control. No matter what, He wins. He is our hope, our salvation.”
Meanwhile, I was making the longest two-hour drive of my life. Friends often say, “I bet you flew up the Interstate!”
Quite the opposite. I proceeded carefully, prayerfully — remembering the words of my wife.
“Take care of our kids.”
At the hospital, we were continually reminded of God’s goodness.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23
Surgery was scheduled for Monday morning, but Sunday night, God sent us an attentive nurse who recognized Laurie was in distress.
Spinal fluid wasn’t circulating correctly, and the building pressure in Laurie’s brain cavity threatened to push her into a coma.
More scans were ordered, and a drain was placed inside Laurie’s brain to relieve the pressure.
During surgery, the aneurysm ruptured again, requiring additional titanium clips to stem the bleeding, and an optic nerve had to be moved, threatening blurred or double vision.
To meet these challenges, God provided skilled doctors and nurses. By the time Laurie was brought back to the ICU, she was talking.
Less than 24 hours later, she was eating grits and eggs.
Dozens of Christian friends visited, and countless prayers were offered on Laurie’s behalf.
Coworkers bowed their heads at my office; our son’s school gathered for prayer; and congregations of friends, family and total strangers added Laurie to their care lists.
For eight days, we made prayer requests from ICU. We asked that Laurie not suffer dangerous vasospasm. We pleaded for her to avoid needing a permanent shunt. And, we prayed for the families around us — some dealing with unimaginable trauma.
God answered — sometimes in ways we expected and other times with a wondrous surprise.
One afternoon, our neighbor in ICU was gripped mid-sentence with a paralyzing seizure. She was a liver transplant patient who had contracted pneumonia and was placed on the neurological floor so she would have round-the-clock care.
She wasn’t supposed to be there. Now, I was watching fear and confusion fill eyes that moments before sparkled with anticipation of health and home.
But God had a plan.
You see, one of my coworkers’ mother-in-law also suffered seizures following a liver transplant. God reminded me of that later in the evening.
By then, our neighbor had been through a battery of scans and tests. Laurie and I were praying for her, as were some of our closest friends. But there were no answers.
That is, until God woke me from a semi-conscious nap with a vague memory. A quick text to my coworker confirmed anti-rejection drugs had caused similar symptoms in her mother-in-law.
Tentatively, I approached our nurse with the discovery. And to God’s glory, instead of dismissing my amateur diagnosis, he asked for more information. Additional texts yielded the names of medications and, after adjustments were made to prescriptions, our neighbor’s seizures ceased.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.” — Isaiah 55:8
No therapy. No medicine. No deficiencies.
Nine days. Three titanium clips. Fifty staples. Thousands of prayers.
One unanswered question.
Why were our prayers answered?
During our marriage, Laurie and I have prayed fervently for healing, reconciliation and recovery for faithful brothers and sisters.
We’ve seen God do amazing things. But we’ve also wrestled to accept why, at other times, He didn’t provide an earthly cure.
It’s at once humbling and convicting. We are reminded that nothing is special about our faith or prayers, and yet we are challenged to make it count.
Like the captain’s final admonition in “Saving Private Ryan.”
So, that’s what we are trying to do. With each day and each response to Laurie’s healing, we seek to give God the glory.
He has been, and always will be, who we look to for help.
“If it had not been the LORD who was on our side…. Then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us;” — Psalm 124:1,4.