How can I describe 2019 up to this point?
I’d say in the meme my friend sent me of a little girl riding a bucking sheep and the following caption: Me: Being a Christian is boring. Lamb of God: Hang on, Brenda!
As 2018 came to a close, we were recovering from the loss of my uncle and stepfather, plus the announcement of my father-in-law’s prostate cancer. My husband, Brent, underwent two surgical procedures to get a total of 3 stents in his heart arteries, and we anticipated that 2019 could only go up from here. Except it didn’t.
In January, Brent got some kind of upper respiratory junk and just couldn’t stop coughing. We tried crystal salt lights, humidifiers, and topical oils in addition to the medications he takes for his asthma and allergies. Every night I would cover him in prayers. It seemed like he would sometimes get a little better, but then, no, he’d take a turn for the worse. I could hardly sleep at night with all of his snoring, coughing, wheezing, etc. and neither could he since he could hardly breathe!
It was so hard to see him struggling on a daily basis to continue going to work with droopy eyelids. I feared that he would fall asleep at the wheel. He finally agreed to go to the doctor and get some antibiotics. Three weeks later, I had to send him again as there was no improvement.
Let me just take a minute to share with you that getting my husband to go to the doctor practically requires an Act of God in itself. Brent is very stubborn and when he gets sick, it becomes worse. He is concerned about being a good provider for his family and taking good care of us, which in his mind translates into never missing any work. In the meantime, he could hardly function and that left everything around the house for me and my son to handle. I’m a work-at-home Mom but that means I’m doubly busy, not sitting around with all the leisure time and extra energy in the world!
In March, he had internal bleeding from the medicine he takes for his heart stents and I had to rush him to the hospital. It took a few days of testing to figure out where the bleeder was and cauterize it.
In April, Brent’s heart was in afib and I got a call that he was in ER again. Atrial Fibrillation is a fancy way of saying that his heart muscle was spasming and beating way too fast. No, a pacemaker can’t fix this. Turns out Brent’s heart had been acting up for a while but he was trying to hide it from everyone and praying it would just go away on its own.
If you haven’t experienced afib, it’s very painful and dangerous. It can lead to a heart attack or a stroke. It can throw a blood clot into your brain. It’s pretty serious.
When his heart didn’t go back into the correct rhythm on its own after a few days in the Hospital Hilton, they had to go to the next level. Brent had to be sedated and they hit him with the paddles to shock his heart back into rhythm, affectionately known as “the floppy chicken”.
If you think reading this makes you tired, believe me when I tell you I was exhausted.
No, I think it was worse than that.
Mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually drained.
You know how they say when you run out of you, that’s when Jesus takes charge? Or how about this homily: when you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on? Or the ever popular: you can never run out of Jesus.
Let me tell you, I was running out of prayers, hope, solutions and energy to deal with all of this.
We were also running out of money, as our insurance is not the greatest. Since Brent is the only one with a full-time job and benefits, we have no other choice but to use what his company offers.
I started thinking about what I would do if I lost Brent. He not only is our main bread winner, but what would I do for insurance for me and our son, JB? What if he had to go on disability, which is even worse than death?
These negative, scary thoughts began consuming me. I didn’t share them with anyone because I was afraid if I said them aloud, they might have the power to come true. I know that’s probably not Biblical, but when you are sleep deprived, stressed and in pain… your mind starts going places that it shouldn’t.
About this time I started asking Brent’s heart doctors what we could do to prevent the afib.
After weeks of testing and more doctor visits and much prayer, in May we met with his heart specialists and they gave us the hard truth.
Brent had congestive heart failure.
His problems with breathing at night all year were caused by the fluid building up in his lungs and body. The pressure of the fluid in his lungs was way too high. He also had severe sleep apnea, an enlarged heart and two significantly leaky heart valves.
It scared me to my soul to hear the heart doctor say over and over “significantly leaky aortic valves.”
The upshot was that there is a surgical procedure which can prevent future episodes of afib, but with all of Brent’s ongoing issues, he was not a candidate for it.
That’s doctor speak for “You won’t survive this procedure, or it won’t help you anyway.”
The only other way to fix leaky heart valves is with open heart surgery, and Brent refuses to accept that. He also refused to wear a mask and use his CPAP machine at night for his sleep apnea.
Every night when I went to bed, I wondered if this would be the time he wouldn’t wake up in the morning.
Every day, I wondered if this would be our last day together, last meal, last laugh, last hug, last movie, last kiss.
So, we were back to square one.
They gave Brent some new meds to try and help him, but the doctors weren’t too optimistic and neither was I, to be honest.
Literally at the end of my rope, I started texting and Facebooking some of my prayer warriors. We live in Charlotte, NC, but we are originally from Southern California. We have friends across the US and all over the world whom we hold close in our hearts, and I started reaching out to them.
Jesus said, “Where two or more are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)
I was holding on to that promise tightly. I was also thinking of the story of how Jesus healed the paralyzed man who was on the mat. You know, the one where the four friends take their paralyzed friend to a house with a thatched roof where a huge crowd had come to hear Jesus teach. They cut a hole in the roof to lower their friend on his mat down into the crowded house so Jesus could heal him. Jesus healed the man because of the faith of his friends. Think about that. So I asked everyone to pray for Brent’s heart… and they did.
Now, I meant for Brent’s literal heart.
But God has an amazing way of making a way where there is no way.
So we are praying and praying for Brent’s heart, and do you know what?
God softened Brent’s emotional/mental/spiritual heart.
One day, he got a phone call from my mom and they talked about sleep apnea, and that very night he started using his machine again! And then he went to the sleep doctor and got a brand new machine, and a new mask, and a new lease on life! He started using it every night and when oxygen gets to your brain it’s a really energizing thing.
It’s like I got my best friend back.
After that, a few months passed and then Brent went in for his cardiac checkup.
He had lost 30 pounds and looked like a whole new person! Dr. Harris said, “I’m not usually surprised, but you have shocked me in the best possible way.” I asked if we could possibly try again to see if he could be a candidate for the laser ablation surgery. This process took over a month with many different and difficult tests. My poor hubby, who hates to miss work, and hates the doctor’s office and hospital, endured so much poking and prodding and indignity with such patience and grace. It could only have been by the Holy Spirit working in him that he went through with everything, and I was by his side every step of the way.
Brent finally did qualify for the laser ablation heart surgery, which cauterizes the nerves that trigger the afib spasms.
I’m happy to report that his surgery was a huge success!
His heart specialist expected to work on Brent’s heart for an hour, but he ended up taking over two hours to cauterize all of the problem areas that he discovered when he was actually in Brent’s heart with the scope and laser. The specialist told Brent that he’s no longer special .he has a good, strong heart and the valves are leaking a lot less since they are no longer misfiring. He’s not going to have afib problems or have to get the “floppy chicken” anymore!
And now we can start talking about the future that we’re going to have together as soon-to-be empty nesters with joy, not fear and dread.
The LORD said, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans for good and not for evil; plans to give you a hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
And that’s what I’m counting on from now on.
So as 2019 is nearing a close, let’s “give thanks to the LORD, for He is good. His mercy endures forever.” (1 Chronicles 16:34)
He definitely showed up in a big way in my husband’s heart; there was no logical, possible way he could’ve gone from an enlarged heart with significantly leaky valves and daily heart spasms to a strong, healthy heart without the very hand of the LORD Himself healing Brent.
We are so very thankful for our friends and family, near and far, who have prayed repeatedly for his health to be restored.
If you are feeling worn out and at the end of your rope, reach out to Jesus. His arm is not too short or His ear too far to hear.
And If you’re thinking, I have nothing left to give, nothing to offer, no way to help a friend, you couldn’t be more wrong.
Prayer is a powerful weapon: USE IT.
“The fervent prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16)
Brenda Frazier is a freelance digital marketing consultant who manages social media marketing and websites for small businesses who don’t have the time or desire to do it themselves. A native of Los Angeles who now lives in Charlotte, NC, Brenda has a degree in Communications from California State University, Fullerton and years of experience in the marketing and technology industries. Brenda’s passion is to help small business owners create successful online marketing strategies and content. She is also a proud member of the Sandwich Generation, taking care of her mom, husband, two children, and Great Pyrenees mix rescue puppy.