Thursday, February 6, 2014

Resurrection: A poem and a memory

by Katy Huth Jones

Death came, confident of victory.
Winter’s pneumonia
Collapsed lung
Desperate surgery
Ravenous bacteria

But a word fitly spoken
sent determination surging
vanquished hopelessness
pushed back death’s icy fingers
with a warm heart
and stubborn German will.

Now each day, each hour
growing stronger
God’s healing power
raises joy from the ashes
and spring blossoms
with new life.

February 2008
My parents, Donna and Walt Huth
Exactly six years ago, my Dad's lung "blew out" and attempts to let the damage heal were ineffective. A local surgeon was willing to risk a long-shot operation to remove the damaged lobe and repair the remaining lung. Without this risky surgery my Dad had no chance at all, because years of COPD had so weakened his lungs (and this was the "good" one) that he was literally dangling by a thread.

The surgery took much longer than it should have because my Dad almost died twice, and he was in ICU in a medically-induced coma for eight days while fighting two bacterial infections (staph and E. coli). Prior to waking him up, the surgeon did a tracheotomy and moved the ventilator tube from Dad's mouth to his throat, that way it would be "easier" for him to breathe on his own and wean him from the ventilator.

Because he couldn't talk or write (his hands were so shaky from this ordeal), once Dad fully woke up, he saw that he was on a ventilator and heard his primary physician and pulmonary doctor talking "over" him about moving him to a rehab center in San Antonio (sixty miles away). I could tell by looking at him that Dad figured they'd "given up" on him and were sending him to a nursing home to die. Through gestures and mouthing words my Mom and I realized he wanted us to "pull the plug" and let him die. He had given up!

While my Mom went to find someone to talk to, Dad's surgeon just happened to walk into ICU in his scrubs (he was between surgeries) to check on my Dad. He saw the look on my face and pulled me out to the hall.

"What's going on?" he asked.

"Dad doesn't want to be moved to San Antonio; he doesn't want to be on a ventilator; he wants us to pull the plug and let him die."

Dad's surgeon got a determined look on his face and said, "Let me talk to him."

So he marched into the room, leaned over the bed and said, "Walter. What's this I hear that you want to leave us?"

My Dad nodded and mouthed, "please."

The surgeon said, "What are you going to do if I turn off this ventilator and you don't die?"

My Dad frowned.

The surgeon explained that the ventilator was only helping my Dad breathe while his lung healed, and he made a "bargain" with him--since this was Friday, he asked my Dad to give him until Monday morning to get him off the ventilator. He explained what the percentages of oxygen were and what they needed to be to wean him off. Dad's eyes lit up--now this Army Colonel had a goal he could work with, and he made it his mission to do all the breathing exercises and get off the ventilator.

If this wonderful doctor had not been so caring as to check on one of his many patients when he had a small break in between surgeries, I have no doubt that my strong-willed Dad would have willed himself to die. But with the surgeon's "fitly spoken" words, he gave my Dad three more years to love his family and create his beautiful gourd art.
Dad's drum won 3rd place in the 2010 Southwest Gourd Art Show
Side view of the drum.
Detail of one of Dad's gourds with 3-D horned toads.
One of his last gourds, using parts cannibalized from my Mom's ukelele.

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