Sunday, June 1, 1997, was not a typical day in the life of the Joneses. It began differently from most Sundays in our lives and most certainly ended differently.
Tennis at 7:00 am is not on my normal agenda for a Sunday morning but I agreed to substitute for Ed Pruden and played with George Davis, Tom Kirkup, and Jim Slate. I am told that I had a good time and played well.
And, most certainly being in the hospital and not expected to live is not my typical ending to a Sunday in June – or anytime for that matter.
If you don’t believe in modern-day miracles, have I got a story to tell you. Modern-day miracles most definitely began to appear in my life on this fateful day in June.
The first miracle occurred on Sunday morning around 9:00 am. After arriving home from tennis and after taking a shower, I began dressing for church. I mentioned to Mary Iva that I had a funny feeling around my esophagus. Mary Iva called our general practitioner but he was not available. So she called doctor’s exchange and left a message. Upon hanging up the phone she said, “Let’s go to the hospital; it could be thirty minutes before a doctor calls.”
So off to the hospital we go with Mary Iva driving because she would not let me drive. When making the turn onto Henrico Doctor’s Hospital’s property, I said, “Iva, I think I am going to pass out on you.” And, I lived up to my word. She drove the car to the emergency room door, got out of the car, entered the emergency room and asked for help. After asking for help she looked back to the car and noticed that I was in trouble. Promptly she screamed into the emergency room, “My husband is very sick; we need help now!”
Almost immediately a wheel chair was rolled to our car, but a stretcher was needed. A few minutes later I was on a stretcher and in the emergency room. I had had a heart attack. My resuscitation was lengthy and brutal, but successful for the moment.
Miracle number one: Mary Iva insisted upon my going to the hospital, a decision that we now know saved my life.
Things did not go well for me, so later that day a cardiac catheterization and then an angioplasty were performed on me to keep the problem artery functional. The procedure did get the heart situation headed on the proper direction.
However, during the night of Sunday, June 1, my blood pressure dropped to a dangerously low level. My doctors tried in vain for several hours to get my blood pressure back up to a safe level. I was started on Levofed, a medicine used as a last resort to increase blood pressure. Very few people survive when this medication is need and used and most surviving patients experience very limiting side effects.
Miracle number two: It was not known at this time that my left lung was hemorrhaging. A rise in my blood pressure would have enhanced this hemorrhaging thus creating an even more critical situation.
During the first night, after the hemorrhaging was discovered, corrective actions were taken. Yet a disease called Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome developed in my left lung. This means the lung had become stiff and refused to function. This is a very dangerous condition, and for a person in my condition, is usually fatal.
Miracle number three: The lung did regain its ability to function after the blood and other fluids were drained out by means of a tube in my chest.
Throughout this period of time with the serious lung problem my blood gases dropped from a normal range of ninety to one hundred percent concentration to a thirty eight percent concentration. This condition generally leads to death at worse, or life with brain damage at best. The physicians were considering a few options which were very risky, but somehow my oxygen levels started to improve and this stunned the doctors.
Miracle number four: I did not die, but the existence of brain damage was unknown. During all of this I was sedated to a state of unconsciousness, and was even rendered paralyzed through medication. This was necessary as the sedatives were actually agitating me to the extent that I was pulling at my respirator tube, as well as many other life supporting tubes.
This level of unconsciousness was maintained except for a few minutes on June 5. A reduction of drugs was allowed, at the request of my neurologist. He wanted an opportunity to evaluate my mental condition.
Miracle number five: I responded in such a way that my neurologist and my family believed that if there was neurological damage, it was not extensive.
On June 12 the physicians started weaning me off the respirator; however, this lead to a re-collapsing of my left lung. Because of the stress already placed on this lung in particular, and my body in general, my prognosis was not good; my pulmonologist was very concerned. This was a great set back since I had been doing so well with weaning from the respirator.
Miracle number six: My lung did recover from this major insult.
On June 15, after having been taken off paralytic drugs for a few days, I went back into bodily distress. I had been very nauseated, was running a high fever, and, even though still unconscious, I had become very agitated. I had to again be restrained and placed on paralytic medication. The fever persisted and I had to be placed on a cooling mattress. The cause of the fever was never determined, but it did subside on June 17.
Miracle number seven: It all seemed to come together for the best on June 18. After many attempts at reducing my medications to allow me to regain consciousness, all of which had been met with my constant and extreme struggling with the ventilator, I was now able to regain consciousness. There appeared to be no neurological damage from the potent medicines used, from the resuscitation at the time of my heart attack, or from the low blood gasses.
Miracle number eight: After being on the respirator for thirty days, the doctors decided to test my breathing without it. Breathing without the respirator was a struggle, but doctors determined that I could go extended periods of time without it. Because of being on the respirator for such a long time, the doctors were very concerned about my ability to go off the respirator without a major battle. This would have been damaging to my already grave condition.
Miracle number nine: My stomach and intestines were resisting starting up again from being only on liquid foods. Mary Iva pressured the doctors to remove my liquid feeding tube and allow me to attempt to eat solid food. They agreed to try this, and my stomach and intestines did began working properly soon after the first solid foods were ingested. Shortly after this I was able to get up, to sit in a chair, and walk around the unit. Everyone was amazed! I remember well when I walked out of my room for the first time. I do remember the pain of trying to walk, but most of all, I remember the nurses clapping, their huge smiles, and their hugs.
Miracle number ten: After thirty four days of intensive care, I was released to go home after only four days in a step-down unit.
I left the hospital on July 8. I remained at home through July 20. On July 21, I was readmitted to Henrico Doctor’s Hospital with what appeared to be kidney stones. I was then scheduled to have the kidney stone(s) removed on July 24. On July 22 an ENT surgeon was called in to examine me because my breathing was impaired somewhat although my lungs appeared to be fine. The ENT surgeon found many growths(granulomas) on my vocal chords which were a result of the tubes being in my throat for such a long time. It was decided to remove these growths and to remove any kidney stone present on July 24. In the meantime I was placed on oxygen and steroids in order to reduce the swelling in my throat so I could breath.
July 24 arrived but the anesthesiologist found that I had a severe breathing problem. Therefore, three procedures now had to be performed: a tracheotomy, the removal of the granulomas, and the removal of the kidney stone(s). (It turned out that I did not have kidney stones, but scar tissue that was blocking a kidney tube.)
Miracle number eleven: Had I not had the kidney problem, I would not have been in the hospital on July 23, the day before surgery, and would not have been on steroids and oxygen.
It is probable that suffocation from the swelling of the growths on my vocal chords would have occurred.
There are many among us who think that modern-day miracles just don’t happen. I have noted eleven such miracles that happened to me in 1997. How can it be that these miracles even happened, and that they occurred in such great numbers to one person in so short a time?
I believe in order to answer these question, as well as the question of how my family could possibly deal with so many near-death experiences for me, we have to look at what was going on outside my hospital room as well as what was going on inside. The out-pouring of concern and love began immediately. Mary Iva was so distraught that she could not even register me into the hospital. She called a family friend for help. This friend was five minutes before leaving his home to go to church. He immediately went to the hospital to assist Mary Iva.
During the first several days of my illness, there were some sixty to seventy visitors at the hospital each evening. The number was so great that the waiting room and the adjacent hall were bulging with concerned friends. Food and sleep apparel were brought in and several friends stayed with my family in the hospital around the clock.
The phone calls to our home were so great in number that for several weeks friends were needed to be at our home all day to take phone messages, to report on me, and to receive food being delivered. This program was organized and staffed by wonderful friends, neighbors, and fellow church members.
A true blessing to the spirits of all of us in the family was the approximately four hundred cards mostly with special notes, flowers, fruit baskets, and other food which we received from family, friends, acquaintances, and friends of friends whom we did not know. Our minister, Dr. Slatton, who has been a minister for many years, noted that during his entire career he had never before seen such a large support group for a family in distress. He was very moved by this and was almost overwhelmed to see such a large outpouring of emotion, concern, support, and love.
We became a focus of prayer groups all over the state of Virginia as well as those in a number of other states.
I think that what one of my doctors and my brother said pretty well sums up the situation. When I thanked one of my doctors for being a part of the team that saved my life, he responded by saying that what the doctors did, and even what I may have done, was not enough. The saving of my life took a cast of thousands.
My brother reasoned that what happened was this: after a million prayers, God answered them all at once and made me well.
Why are my family and I well today? Certainly the doctors were instrumental, but they could do only so much. The other reason is that God does answer prayers. The scientific reason, which is also spiritual(God) by nature, is that thought(prayer) is the highest form of energy in the universe, and when this energy is large enough and strong enough around one thought, the thought(prayer) becomes reality. This is what Jesus meant when He said that faith can move mountains.
Therefore, my family is whole and in good health today because of the support, thoughts, and prayers of literally hundreds of people who cared enough to spend their time and energy to physically support us; but, more importantly, they prayed over and over that we would remain well and continue to have a complete family presence here on earth.
by Ronnie, Mary Iva, Cabell, & Meredith Jones