Today was a tough, tough, tough day.
When Chrissie was bleeding so badly and rapidly earlier today, we knew that it was serious. Dr. Kupferschmid was looking really stressed about getting Chrissie off the ECMO machine. There was just no way to stop Chrissie's bleeding unless we got her off the ECMO because they couldn't give her any blood-clotting medicine while on the ECMO, in fact, they had to keep pumping her full of anti-coagulating medicine in order to keep her on the ECMO.
If Chrissie hadn't started bleeding today, she would still be on the ECMO now. The right side of her heart still needed rest. It was still too weak to perform on its own. It was obvious when viewed via echo (sonogram) that there was no way this girl's heart could hold its own. Not for a few more days, at the least.
So, when we were told about the "do or die" situation with getting her off the ECMO today, it was a bit of a panicky mode for Matt and I. We knew that Chrissie's heart and lungs were still in very bad shape. We knew that if they disconnected the ECMO and Chrissie's heart and lungs weren't strong enough to hold their own, then we would lose her and there would be NO getting her back after that. The ECMO is the biggest, baddest life support system out there, particularly the rescue circuit that she was on! There would be no other options out there if Chrissie's body failed her.
On top of all of this, I never mentioned to you that our beloved cardiologist, who was sent straight from God, left today to go to Iraq on a heart mission trip with Samaritan's Purse. She's my earthly rock. She gives me the low-down in layman's terms. She cries with us, prays with us, laughs with us, and reminds us of Who is really in charge, The Great Physician. Dr. Porisch had been recruited for this heart mission trip (which she volunteers to do quite often) before Chrissie had so many complications. Dr. Porisch told us last night (in tears) that she REALLY didn't want to go to Iraq and leave Chrissie and us behind at this time. God reminded her that He was calling her to head to the ancient town of Nineveh, the same place where He also called Jonah to so long ago. But, Jonah disobeyed God and ran away because he didn't want to go there. And we all know what happened to Jonah! So, Dr. Porisch told God she would obey Him, and she would leave Chrissie in His hands as she obeyed and headed to ancient Nineveh, even though she REALLY didn't want to leave Chrissie at this time.
So, my cardio-rock was GONE today during this time or crisis. UGH! This forced me to rely solely upon God, knowing it was all in His hands from Day 1, and He ordered these steps with sovereignty. Dr. Porisch stopped by to see Chrissie and tell us goodbye before she headed to the airport. We hugged and reminded each other that it was going to be OK, it was all in God's hands, and He didn't need either of us in order to make His plan work!!! She left the room in tears while I was forced to face the reality of getting Chrissie off the ECMO machine without Dr. Porisch around. (As if I had anything to do with getting her off the machine, but still!!!)
The team came up with their do or die plan to get Chrissie off the machine, and the first attempt failed. Chrissie's oxygen sats dropped down to 40, so they had to turn the ECMO back on. At that time, I went to Chrissie's side (she had been asleep, totally out of it), and I prayed Ezekiel 16:6 over her. "Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood, I said to you, "Live!", and the moment I said the word, "LIVE", Chrissie raised her eyebrows!!! I knew at that moment that Chrissie was telling me she was going to fight her heart out to LIVE. Dr. Kupferschmid said to keep doing whatever I was doing because her oxygen sats went up in the 90's when I spoke to her! I prayed over her, spoke Scripture over her, and continuously reminded her of how much we love her and how much we needed her to fight. She responded to EVERYTHING I said. Chrissie used the movement of her eyebrows to speak volumes to me as I claimed life for her broken body. Every time I told Chrissie that I loved her, she would raise her eyebrows, to tell me that she loved me back. The medical staff in the room (about 8 people) kept telling me to stop asking her to respond to me because her carbon dioxide sats were too high for her to be able to respond, but I told Chrissie to show them what her God was made of, and CHRISSIE RAISED HER EYEBROWS! Take that! My God is bigger than any paralytic meds and carbon dioxide levels that prohibit movement. Chrissie ministered to ME through her eyebrow talk!!! I knew she was going to fight her way through this.
There was a LONG way to go to get Chrissie off the ECMO with little time to spare. I started telling Chrissie to be the boss of her heart. (Chrissie is always looking for opportunities to boss someone around!) I told her to tell her heart exactly what it needed to do, and I explained it all in detail to her. Then I told her repeatedly to "boss her heart", and guess what?!? Right there on the screen of the echo machine (sonogram), Chrissie's heart started doing what it needed to do!!! Chrissie was bossing her heart, and her heart was obeying!!! The entire medical team witnessed it with their very eyes. I heard one person say, "There's no way." Another said, "Amazing."
So then the doctor shouts out for me to tell Chrissie to "boss" her lungs!!! I cracked up, but they were witnessing our God at work before their very eyes with medical equipment to capture it in action!!! So, I told Chrissie to boss her lungs, and I told her exactly what her lungs needed to do. I told her that her lungs were dirty/icky, and they needed to get cleaned up. I told Chrissie to send her lungs to the bathroom to wash up, and each time, they were coming back a little more clean, but not totally clean. So, each time that occurred, I would tell Chrissie to tell those lungs to march right back to the bathroom to finish getting cleaned up. They had to remove the icky carbon dioxide and open up and accept blood from her heart and oxygenate the blood. There was so much bossing to be done, but Chrissie hung right in there and bossed and bossed and bossed. She would tell me how hard she was working to boss her heart and lungs by physically shaking and moving her shoulders, arms, hands, and eyebrows. (This was all while she shouldn't have been able to move at all due to drugs and high CO2 levels!)
The doctors and entire medical team witnessed miracles before their very eyes. Right here in Chrissie's PICU room as I told Chrissie to show the world what her God is capable of. It was absolutely amazing. Seriously. Words cannot describe what we witnessed today. We went from a heart that was broken and collapsed, to a full heart where every chamber was beating perfectly and filled with the right capacitites, beating properly, pumping properly and doing exactly what a healthy heart would do.
We also went from lungs that were filthy and not filtering or oxygenating or removing carbon dioxide from the blood to lungs that were giving oxygen sats in the 90's while CO2 levels consistently dropped!!! Dr. Kupferschmid asked me to stay right where I was, doing exactly what I was doing while medical staff worked all around my daughter and me. Everyone was crawling through wires and tubes and machines just so that I wouldn't have to leave Chrissie's side. We only had "crawl" space available, but no one wanted me to move as God directed my steps and breathed LIFE into Chrissie. His life. Right before our very eyes.
Before we knew it, the ECMO had been turned off for 1.5 hours, as I "coached" Chrissie as God told me exactly what to say to her. She continued to communicate with me through her eyebrows. (She can't talk due to the intubation, and she had very little movement ability, but she forced her eyebrows to communicate with me!) So, the decision was made to convert Chrissie's PICU into an operating room (for the second time today) and completely remove the ECMO machine!!! I explained to Chrissie what they were going to do and what would be required of her, and how we needed her to continue to boss her heart and lungs so she could tell the world what her God is capable of, and Chrissie totally agreed with me by shaking her eyebrows up and down with absolute agreement and purposeful movement. She even cried. I cried, too, but I KNEW that God was going to save her and pull her through this. He was doing it miraculously before our very eyes.
We were kicked out of the PICU as the cardiovascular operating team moved in to do their stuff. (They all know us now and we know them...not something I wish upon anyone!) I told them that if Chrissie started to die, to come get me so I could tell her what to do so they could see our God at work. They assured me that they would.
Matt and I, along with my mom, sat in the waiting room and prayed. A man from our church, Mr. Bill Taylor (who has faithfully come by to pray with us), led us in prayer before he headed out to donate blood. It was all in God's hands.
About 2 hours later, Dr. Kupferschmid bee-bopped with a glow into the waiting room and told us to come back into the room. She did GREAT! He was able to get the cannulas out and repair both the jugular vein and carotid artery. (He had planned to not repair them and just tie them off because he didn't think he'd have time to get them repaired before she bled out.) He opened the lower portion of her chest and sternum and drained off a lot of extra blood. Everything remained stable during this time, and Chrissie was successfully removed from the ECMO machine!!! This was impossible just a few hours prior. It was so obviously God. Dr. Kupferschmid rubbed Chrissie's head and said, "Amazing...just amazing." He shook his head in disbelief, but a smile and joy radiated from his face. Our miracle girl was alive!
At that moment, Dr. Porisch texted me to say these words:
"I am in Denver now. It was the longest plane ride ever being unable to check phone, text or blog. I have been in constant wrestling match with the Great Physician since takeoff from SA. It is killing me to not be tehre with Chrissie and both of you! But God is in control and He is mighty to heal and save. You have been such an amazing witness to me and thousands of others. I am praying that God will strengthen you and uphold you on this unbelievable roller coaster. ~Mary"
I texted Dr. Porisch back to tell her to call me if she could! Moments later the phone rang, and I gave Dr. Porisch the praise report! Dr. Porisch was elated, and she shared with me that she spent the ENTIRE plane ride praying for Chrissie. She told me that the last blog update she got was that the bridging off the ECMO failed when Chrissie's O2 sats dropped in the 40's. At that time, she was forced to power off her phone. So, she cried and prayed and yelled at God the entire plane ride. She looked up every Scripture that had to deal with healing and giving life, and she prayed and claimed those for Chrissie. She said that the lady next to her surely thought she was crazy, but she couldn't control herself. Dr. Porisch said she finally gave up the wrestling match with God and cried out with desperation to The Great Physician as she drifted through the heavens, as close to God as she could be, claiming LIFE for Chrissie!
Well, would you believe that Dr. Porisch's prayer time occurred during the exact same time that Chrissie started to "boss" her heart and lungs and things started turning around so miraculously with Chrissie's sats and functions that the ECMO was able to stay off for an entire hour and a half?!? This is NO coincidence that on the very day at the very hour that Dr. Porisch is flying through the heavens with no internet or phone service, while she fervently prays for her patient to live, that God was moving mountains in PICU room 1 at Methodist Children's in San Antonio, Texas!!! Dr. Porisch obeyed her God's command to leave her patient and go to ancient Nineveh, and in her obedience, she trusted God and petitioned Him to grant Chrissie life.
And God answered her prayers and honored her obedience. A little different ending than Jonah's.
We are amazed.
Truly in awe.
Dr. Porisch, you will never know how much you mean to me, precious servant of God. You took the risk of contacting me back in the summer of 2009 to let me know that you were willing to help save Chrissie's life if we were to obey God and bring her home from Serbia. When all other cardiologists stated that Chrissie's condition was "not compatible with life", you chose LIFE. His life. His way. You obeyed God's command to leave and go to ancient Nineveh, even when you didn't want to. Even when you begged God to let you stay. You sought His will and obeyed, even when it wasn't what you wanted. You prayed and prayed and prayed and cried and cried and cried and begged and begged and begged and pleaded and pleaded and pleaded on behalf of our precious angel, Chrissie. And guess what our faithful God did? He healed and healed and healed. He has used your obedience to breathe new life into our Serbian Sensation. We cannot ever express our gratitude for you. Ever. We love you and I already miss you immensely.
I will need to thank Dr. Kupferschmid and all of the medical team members and ECMO specialists for saving my daughter's life, multiple times, literally. I will have to save that for another post.
I have to thank YOU, my faithful prayer warriors, for continously lifting Chrissie and our family up. Please don't stop now as the road is still not clear. As you've witnessed on this Wonderful Witness Wednesday, God hears our cries and He answers our prayers.
"The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being." Genesis 2:7