Thursday, April 9, 2009

On March 13, 2008, the phone rang. A call that would change our lives! It was Neal's cardiologist, and he was only supposed to call "if there is a problem." He told me he'd lost Neal's cell phone number and needed to call him. Amazingly I recalled the number since my mind was flying in a million different directions. I gave Neal about 15 minutes before I called him. In the meantime, I: 1) Prayed; 2) Shot an email off to my friend Perri to start praying; and 3) Went down to my Mom's to make the phone call to Neal. (I knew I would need her support and I didn't want the kids to overhear my conversation.)

Neal answered the phone and tried to ignore my questioning. I said "Listen, the doctor called here first so I know something's up, and I have to take the kids to piano and I will not be able to function if I'm worrying the entire time." He gave up. He told me that he was going to finish up at work and come home and tell me in person, but since I called he told me what the doctor said. Neal had an aneurysm in his aorta. His aorta was double the size it was supposed to be. The doctor said it was only a matter of time before it could rupture and then he would most likely die. He also said that while they were in there, they should go ahead and replace his bicuspid aortic valve (a defect he'd had since birth). When Neal told me all of this, I felt like I'd been kicked in the stomach. I literally doubled over and could barely catch my breath. I knew something was up, but I didn't think about it being that serious! Thankfully I was at my Mom's and she was there to support me.

The next three hours or so seemed like an eternity. About 5 minutes after I got off the phone with Neal, the surgeon's office called to set up a consultation (good thing Neal told me what was going on!). Then I went upstairs and called Perri to tell her the news. I could barely get the words out, it just didn't seem real. Then I had to take the kids to piano and act "normal." My answer to acting "normal" was to turn the stereo up high in the car (which they love) and play Toby Mac. Of course that's more normal for Daddy...not Mommy. Beth said she knew something was up.

We went to piano and not long after we returned Neal came home. We sat the kids down in the living room and told them what was going on. We cried, laughed (because we always laugh with Neal!) and prayed together. That evening we went and told Neal's parents. I'm sure that was difficult to hear about your son, but they handled it so well. I made a few phone calls that night and got the word out so that people could be praying.

After seeing the surgeon a week later, surgery was scheduled for April 9th. One year ago today!

We were so blessed during those weeks before the surgery. The outpouring of love and concern was incredible! One of the most special times was the following Sunday after we found out about the surgery. Our Adult Bible Fellowship class (ABF) spent the entire class time listening to Neal's story and then praying one by one for Neal and our entire family. It was extremely moving and comforting.

One year ago today....right now....11:14 am...Neal was in surgery. They came out at 8:10 am and told us they had started. They came out at 10:10 and told us he was on the heart/lung machine. We had family and friends around us all day...supporting us and praying with us. Those who couldn't come were praying at home and calling and emailing me throughout the day. I've never felt so cared for in my entire life! (Thank you friends!)

Neal's surgery lasted about 8 hours, and he came through with flying colors. The first few days after surgery were a bit scary...the bottom chamber of his heart didn't start back up and they put an external pacemaker on him. After 3 days had gone by and it still didn't start on its' own, the doctor thought it wasn't going to happen. I started calling and emailing people to pray for his heart to start beating on its' own. The next morning when Dr. M checked his heart I was standing there watching his face...and praying. I knew the moment when *he* knew Neal's heart was beating. His mouth dropped open and he said "well I'll be .... It's working!" And a big smile spread across his face and I just started crying.

Neal did end up having to get a pacemaker two days after he was discharged from the hospital, but it's to keep his heart in rhythm...not to keep it beating. It's kind of like a nice insurance policy! :o)

Today Neal is healthy! He feels better than he ever has. He has more energy. He can work out longer and harder...walk longer on the treadmill, lift more weights, etc.

I'm just so thankful that God allowed us to find out about his condition before it was too late. But I'm also thankful that no matter what had happened Neal was ready. He was ready to meet God if he had not made it. We're very glad (obviously) that he did make it, but he truly was ready either way.

"Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name!" Psalm 100:4
Jeremiah 29:11

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."