“Mrs. Hudson. Your husband’s chances are about 50-50. He’s a very sick man. His body has been through a lot. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure he’ll make it.”
Dr. Morris’s face was grim. His eyes stared into mine, making sure I got the message. My hands trembled. The words burned into my brain. Panic overwhelmed me. Angela, interim director at Christian Campus Fellowship, and I held each other. I sobbed as she prayed.
In the ladies’ room as I dried my hands, I took off my wedding band and read the inscription. Deo Est Amo. God is Love—a phrase that described our life together. God is LOVE. God IS love. I held onto that for courage as I phoned my children.
It was July 28, 2010. In a few hours, my life revolved around a dimly lit room flanked with 13 boxes of medications and 19 tubes crisscrossing the head of Tim’s bed. An oversized clock told the hour, but without a window it was impossible to know if it was a.m. or p.m.
My focus was on my husband in the hospital bed. I caressed fingers the size of sausages. Tim’s features had bloated after the heart catheterization. A torn vein and two heart attacks. And now he was facing open heart surgery. Could this be real? I struggled to grasp every detail.
Our daughters feared brain damage due to oxygen loss that occurred while repairing his heart during emergency surgery. The first 24 hours were critical. During visitation we took turns talking to Tim, kissing him, and praying over him. Whatever might happen, I wanted him to know we were there.
Angela took charge of notifying the staff, board members, and alums. Our church, campus ministers, and friends alerted thousands and asked for around-the-clock prayer.
Tim’s brothers got the message, which was no easy task; Phil works in Haiti, Bryan works in Panama, and Scott was about to leave for Korea. Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail became instruments of prayer. Assurances poured in from around the globe. We felt enveloped in God’s care. I couldn’t tell if Tim understood when I whispered to him, “If numbers of prayers mean anything to God, you have thousands all over the globe praying for you.” I had to believe he understood on some level.
After four and one-half hours of surgery, Dr. Morris gathered us into a private room. He repeated his prognosis. By then my daughters, brother, in-laws, and mom had arrived. My brother led us in prayer. His presence signaled the healing of our relationship and was the first of many “God sightings.” He encouraged me to pray Psalm 91 and to ask God for strength.
From the beginning, I ran to “God Most High for safety” and was “protected by the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1*). When I left Tim each evening at 9, I envisioned tall, muscular seraphs armed with swords and shields. I prayed for angels to surround us. When I awoke crying in the night, I experienced what it means to “pray without ceasing.”
One morning our son whispered, “I keep hoping I will wake up and this will all be a nightmare.” I agreed with him. That morning I read Psalm 91 aloud as we drove to Athens Regional Medical Center.
“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you can hide” (v. 4). A vision of the family farm came to mind. Mama hen covers her baby chicks so completely that only a tiny talon is evident. A beautiful reminder of protection and security.
The intensive care unit became headquarters. Newcomers to the waiting room asked for help learning the ropes. My son arranged to get the coffee machine repaired. A group of strangers became a tribe exchanging concern for one another’s relatives. Every hour on the hour, I and my waiting-room family pushed the call button to obtain our precious 15 minutes with our loved ones.
Twelve-hour days allowed me to list God sightings. My mended relationship with my brother was the first. Our foster son and daughters bonded in a new way. Long-lost friends made contact. Love spilled over to those around us.
Beth, our ICU nurse, was a friend’s sister. Kathy, the echocardiogram technologist, plays in the band at the Orchard Church. Our needs were the subject of all-night prayer vigils and group prayers. Missionaries, ministers, congregations, and even young children were asking for a miracle. God sightings were everywhere.
Fatigue brought gloomy thoughts. What if I had to make final arrangements? Would I be a widow? I told my childhood friend I felt like Alice falling down the rabbit hole. She encouraged me to seize the promise of Psalm 91: “They will call to me, and I will answer them. I will be with them in trouble; I will rescue them and honor them. I will give them a long, full life, and they will see how I can save (vv. 15, 16, author emphasis).
A daily prayer request was to reduce Tim’s medications. By day six he was only on insulin. During the evening of day seven a deep sedative was given so the ventilator could be removed. Whenever I spoke, Tim tried to focus his eyes or weakly squeeze my hand. The medicines would erase this memory. Perhaps amnesia was a blessing.
Early on day eight, the ventilator was removed and Tim woke up. He had no brain damage, no thoracic pain, and no memory of the hospital. As an added bonus, his ruptured vertebrae no longer bothered him either!
The news of Tim’s miraculous healing went out into cyberspace. The battle was won but the war wasn’t over. Setbacks lay ahead. Gout flared. Pulmonary edema threatened. Veins extracted for the bypass led to ulcerated leg lesions. Through the valley of the shadow God’s people kept their prayer vigil.
Physical rehabilitation was next. Another answered prayer was a private room at a nearby facility. Insurance completely covered physical rehab, home health care, and cardio rehab. One by one the answers came.
Hour by hour I prayed, “Say to the Lord, ‘you are my place of safety and protection. You are my God and I trust you’” (v. 2). Many whose faith was challenged contacted us. We encouraged a rebirth of their faith.
“He has put his angels in charge of you to watch over you wherever you go. They will catch you in their hands so that you will not hit your foot on a rock. . . . They will call to me, and I will answer them. I will be with them in trouble; I will rescue them and honor them. I will give them a long, full life, and they will see how I can save (vv. 11, 12; 15, 16).
The waiting room became a place where I could encourage others, all the time reminding myself what frail creatures we are. Our existence is temporary. God’s Spirit rekindled hope. He allowed me to look beyond the present and see the spiritual warriors surrounding my loved ones. Our family modeled faith to patients’ families, doctors, nurses, and a repairman. God’s providence allowed us to celebrate our 42nd wedding anniversary on August 16. We ate dinner together at St. Mary’s physical rehab center, and it was my thanksgiving feast.
Why did God say “yes” and miraculously heal my husband? Certainly others are just as worthy and their prayers just as fervent. I do not have the answer. I only know that in the midst of my worst nightmare, Psalm 91 gave me hope, comfort, courage, and love. God gathered me under his wing and granted what I only dared to hope for.
After 23 days in two different hospitals, Tim came home. His surgeon called it a miracle. The cardiologist called it a miracle. The pulmonologist called it a miracle. I call it love.
*All Scripture quotations are from the New Century Version.
Sheila Hudson lives with her husband in Athens, Georgia.