30: Hope in the ICU

30: Hope in the ICU

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Angels Among Us

Hope in the ICU

The prayer that begins with trustfulness and passes on into waiting will always end in thankfulness, triumph, and praise.

~Alexander Maclaren

It was a joyous time for Mother to be in the delivery room as my younger sister gave birth to her first child. Mother said it was an awesome, unforgettable experience to see her granddaughter born. Sara was a small baby but quickly gained weight, reaching the five-pound minimum to be released from the hospital. My sister and her husband took her home.

Shortly after being home, Sara became ill and was re-admitted to the hospital. Mother was still visiting. Unknown to us at the time, Mother prayed for God to take her rather than Sara. Sara began thriving again, keeping down her food and gaining weight. She was again sent home to the care of her parents and grandmother. Mother enjoyed caring for Sara.

A week or so after Sara was released from the hospital, Mother had a heart attack and was rushed by ambulance to the hospital. My other sister and I immediately drove to the hospital. It was a four-hour drive from the town where we lived.

The cardiologist informed us Mother most likely wouldn’t survive. “Even if she does,” he said, “she will have no memory and be in a vegetative state.” He explained, “In the forty-minute ambulance ride to the hospital, her heart stopped three times. Though the paramedics were able to revive her, with each episode the brain was damaged due to lack of oxygen.” The cardiologist advised us to call family members.

This is not what we wanted to hear. At age fifty-five, she was too young to leave us. It felt like only yesterday Daddy died (actually thirteen and a half years), and now Mother. “Please God, don’t take her,” I begged.

While my younger sister had to be home to care for her new baby, my other sister and I stayed in the waiting room outside the ICU. When the nurses allowed it, we would go to Mother’s side, hold her hand and talk to her. She was unresponsive, but we kept talking.

One night around midnight, while my sister and I sat in the ICU waiting room, a minister came through the doors from the ICU. We had not seen him go into ICU.

He came directly to us, as if he knew us, and said, “Your Mother is going to be fine.” He sat down and prayed with us. As he did, I felt my fear and hopelessness wash away. Within me there was a renewed optimism and sense of wellbeing.

The minister appeared to be in his early sixties with gray-black hair. He looked directly into my eyes as he handed me a business card and said, “Call if you need me.” As he looked into my eyes, I felt calm. I was thankful for the minister’s visit.

The length of time Mother lay in the hospital bed unresponsive is unclear in my memory. It seemed like an eternity! My sister and I made repeated trips back and forth from Norfolk, Virginia where we lived, to the North Carolina hospital. Each time there was no change; we were disappointed, but I didn’t give up hope.

Finally, she spoke. Without opening her eyes, she called out her sister’s names. She also called out the names of her children.

The doctor said her ability to speak was a positive, unexplainable sign. She did regain consciousness despite the doctor’s initial bleak prediction. The only permanent damage to her brain was loss of short-term memory. I had one last thing to do before we took her back to Norfolk — thank the minister for his prayers.

I called the number on the business card. There was no such number in service. I looked in the phone book only to discover no listing for the church. Upon describing the minister to the ICU nurses and the hospital information desk attendant, I was told no one knew him or had ever seen the minister. My sister and I couldn’t have both dreamt him, and I did have the business card in hand.

For me, there is no doubt that during the time we were exhausted and had no hope, God sent an angel to pull us back up. He sent an angel disguised as an earthly minister to carry the message of an upcoming miracle: “Your mother is going to be fine.”

~Sara L. Schafer

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