The last hundred hours have been the most unreal, surreal, and at the same time vividly raw real of my life. It will take days, months and probably years for my mind and heart to fully process it. But here’s what I know: we are living a miracle.
In the last hundred hours, a fierce, brutal, powerful tale of redemption and resurrection has unfolded in these hospital walls. One still very much being written, with many questions yet unanswered, yet infused with one miraculously answered prayer after another.
At five o’clock on Friday night, I got “the call” – the one I’ve dreaded with every story of Jenny Lee’s Alec, Mary Crawley’s Matthew, and Meredith Shepherd’s Derek. All at once, I was in my own tv drama nightmare, complete with the perfect morning together preceding it.
As a friend drove me to the hospital, I learned only bits and pieces – CPR had been performed at the scene, he was in the cardio department awaiting a “procedure”, and the procedure could not wait and needed my consent over the phone – ending with a promise they would “do everything they could.” I’d never heard words that struck more terror … I had no idea how many more terrifying words would come to my ears that very night.
When we finally arrived, we waited. In silent agony and with the ER admission nurses avoiding my direct gaze as they asked me to wait for the social worker. I met the men who had performed CPR, the men who had used an aed at the scene. I listened as one might read a newspaper – distant, cautious, as if about a country far away.
At last I was taken back to meet a doctor – my husbands cardiologist. The words didn’t go together in my mind. He had no heart trouble, no forewarning signs, no family history. Nonetheless, I was told he’d had a heart attack, and had 100% blockage of an artery. They had put in a stint. He was in recovery. And the doctor “has seen people make full recoveries” from these types of attacks, though brain activity was a large unknown. Someone had pulled up a wheelchair; I found myself accepting it.
An hour or so later, after he was stable, they led me back to see him.
As I arrived at the door to his room, I saw the tubes, the monitors, the wires, the hospital gown. And then the monitor flashed a red zero. And the light above his door flashed blue. And nurses and doctors from every direction came running as I became an extra in my own episode of Greys Anatomy.
Jason coded twelve times that night. I can’t put into words the terror of each one, or the ring of words like “flatline”, “paddles – clear!” being within earshot, and being about the man I love.
My prayers were fervent and clear: life, breath, life, breath.
Yet life and breath were the most elusive things of the evening. I watched nurses work tirelessly. Doggedly. Fighting death back only to have it come running at them again. And again. And again.
At some point, I became aware that their efforts were more for me than for him – that they were doing everything in their power to show me that they had done everything in their power. I stared at the love of my life as he stared blankly ahead, while machines kept his body alive.
I knew to sing. I don’t know how or why I knew that. But I knew to sing over him. Hymns and songs of worship, praise, and a promise – to him and to me – that I would declare God is good. In the shadow. Songs that defied what the eyes could see even as it was breaking my heart in half to think what it would mean to keep worshiping in a world without my Jason.
At 5:30am on Saturday February 20, 2016, I was told that I would soon be a widow.
That there was nothing left they could do. That he was on one hundred percent life support, and that time would make no difference. That it was time to say goodbye.
I heard a wail. A deep guttural moan filled with pain. I realized it was coming from my own mouth. From the depths of my soul.
And even as my mouth said the words goodbye, even as my hands caressed the skin not covered in needles and wires, even as my mind recognized that I would never see him again this side of heaven, my heart refused for it to be true.
As the doctor walked in, I told him I had only one question. My tear-soaked eyes begged him to tell me why more time wouldn’t make a difference; why we weren’t giving him a chance to fight.
His eyes filled with discomfort, and he squirmed with the truth of what he had to tell me. That there was almost zero chance that time would make any difference at all.
I clung to almost.
He agreed to wait a few more hours. I knew even then that it was merely to give me the confidence that we had tried.
I took each step in a hollow fog, understanding each one was leading me to my unwanted new chapter of life as the former Mrs. Jason Miller.
One hour later, he woke up.
He. Woke. Up.
He was responsive. Answering to his name and simple commands. The doctor couldn’t explain it. The nurse grabbed my hand and said “I’ve never seen anything like this!” as she raced me down the hall to his side.
His still unfocused eyes started searching as he heard my voice. My hand went to his forehead and my heart leapt in hope. He was awake.
He was also incredibly unstable, and I was rushed out as quickly as I was rushed in, as doctors realized that stimulation was causing his blood pressure to plummet and his heart to race erratically.
Still, he had woken up. Against all odds. Life had returned to the room.
And so began a delicate vigil, a teetering dance around vital signs and organ failure and shallow breaths and v-tachy spikes and bodily tremors and countless medications and machines.
So continued a battle of heavenly proportions, where prayer requests went out around the world and loved ones flew in from around the world. Where we saw every odd beaten and every prayer answered. Where I have learned more about love than ever before as we’ve been surrounded these twilight and daylight hours alike.
Where life has returned. Resurrected life.
Today ended the dependence on drugs and machines. Even now we are beginning the weaning from sedation. With it remain many unknowns, and I keep receiving warning that we have a long road ahead, to which I say “AMEN it’s long!” The short one would have ended with a funeral.
But we, we are living the long road of a miracle.