I wish everyone could have the opportunity just once of going to ER or intensive care as a quadriplegic on life support. Depending upon your kind of personality you would either come away from the experience with a greatly enhanced sense of humor or extremely frustrated. One of the first procedures you would be submitted to would be an x-ray. The x-ray technician has had drummed into his head that he must say "take a deep breath and hold it" to everyone he x-rays. He is like the MacDonald's employee who says to me when I ask for an order of french fries -- "would you like fries with that order?" Of course I would love to take a deep breath and hold it and I try to communicate that sentiment to the technician as best I can. They go forward with the x-ray with great misgivings and I always have the feeling that they are a tad upset with me because I have broken the cardinal rule of proper x-ray protocol.
The next thing that happens is that the doctor wants to redo my trachea system so I can't speak as loudly or as well as I normally do. I know there must be a profound medical reason for this but I have not discovered it yet. Now that I am unable to communicate in a normal way, the intensive care nurses begin to take care of me. During 12 days in intensive care, only one nurse is not Asian. Don't get me wrong, these are incredibly compassionate, competent and wonderful nurses, but with their English and my inability to speak, communication does become an issue. I start getting cold and ask the nurse to pull the blanket "up." She pulls it "down". I say, "No, pull it toward my head!" She pulls it toward my feet. This tug-of-war goes on for some time until the light turns on in her head and she says "Oh, you want the blanket "up." I ask, "Would you please put the head of the bed down?" I am invariably catapulted forward in a most agonizing manner. The nurse says, "Is that far enough?" My muffled response is "Head down, head down!" Having won the battle of the blanket and the position of the bed I am exhausted, and being unable to speak at all now, I am an ideal patient -- comatose -- for the next several hours.
The nurse next tells me that if I need help in case of an emergency to just pick up the remote and push the emergency button to call her. This makes me nervous for a number of reasons as you can imagine. First of all the nurse has not yet caught on that I can't move, and secondly what am I to do in case of a real emergency like my ventilator failing, or my hose popping off because the rubber bands were not properly attached to my trachea? When I express my concerns about this potential problem -- and especially with the hose popping up -- the nurse comforts me by saying "In this hospital we don't use rubber bands to hold the trachea on."
I really am not a wimp but I had a close family member or friend stay with me 24 hours a day for the 12 days I was in intensive care. Guess what? Had somebody not been there at my bedside as an advocate with the nurses, I honestly don't know that I would have made it out of there alive.
Actually, this particular brush with death was quite sobering for me. Yesterday our primary HMO doctor, Dr. Siddall, called to tell us she had been monitoring my surgery and recovery through the charts and written records that are kept. She said that it was the most dramatic account of a surgery she has read for many years. She said it took a giant team effort on the part of many skilled surgeons, other doctors, and nurses to keep me alive so the surgery could be performed. My blood pressure got so low on two occasions that the anesthesiologist had to quit administering anesthesia for a period of time. He was concerned I would be in great pain, but of course such was not the case, and in retrospect, all I can say is "Boy, I'll bet that hurt!" I don't know what Dr. Siddall's religious tradition is but she told us over the phone that making it through the surgery was an absolute miracle and that I must have some important mission yet to perform.
I do know that my life was preserved by the Lord. The priesthood blessings I received from my sons prior to my surgery were blessings of great faith and power. I know that death is an inevitable part of life but at times the Lord sees fit to prolong life. Two verses of Scripture from the Book of Moroni have taken on significant meaning as a result of my latest adventure. "And Christ hath said: If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me." [Moroni 7:33] And then Moroni 10:23 is almost a direct quote of 7:33. In the first instance Moroni is quoting his father and the second time he uses these phrases is in the last chapter of his own writings. I think this truth was extremely important to both Mormon and Moroni.
My life was preserved because of faith -- my own faith, the faith of my family and friends, the numerous prayers offered in my behalf, and the priesthood blessings administered in faith -- and because it was expedient in Christ that such be the case. I am amazed at the number of Scriptures in the standard works in which the word "expedient" is used. Expedient: "... suitable for achieving a particular end in a given circumstance." [Merriam-Webster online dictionary]
"And Christ hath said: If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient [suitable] in me" -- achieving a particular end in a given circumstance -- in my case, being healed from a dangerous surgery because it was expedient in Christ that such be the case.
I am extremely grateful that it was "expedient" in Christ that my life be preserved through faith on His name. Because of it, each day of mortality is such a precious gift.