Recollections and Memories

Four years ago yesterday I got up early, as usual, but experienced anything but usual! I could barely make it upstairs(our room is in the basement). I sat as soon as possible with my head between my knees to prevent fainting. After gaining composure, I walked to the dining room repeating the head between knees position.

Each year, this time of year, since my scrape with death, I go back and read all the posts on Facebook and your comments to our posts. I usually go back to January 2015 because that was the beginning of “Mom Bjorlie’s Medical Recovery” page on FaceBook. Reading these posts reminds me of the family of God and their great love for one another. It reminds me of humanity’s ability to love and care for one another. It reminds me of God’s GREAT mercy in sparing my life. It reminds me of why I’m here on earth. It reminds me to pray for others in their time of need. It reminds me of my children and their great spouses and their love for me. It reminds me of my beloved John and his care for me. It. Reminds. Me.

I’m at my kitchen table with a hot cup of tea. You grab one too and read along rejoicing with me in His care for us all. I will recount His many blessings, naming them one by one. So grab that cuppa and read on. Here’s the link:

I so wish I could sit down with each of you who prayed, commented, brought food and/or visited me. When one is fighting for life and breath…one needs others to pray. Others can pray with fervency and effectiveness. The sick one only thinks of…ouch that hurts, I can’t breath, YOU THINK I’m going to stand up!!!!! Walk where????? You wake me up to weigh me???? Really? I wish I could eat. Please be gentle. Why is my hair crusty? Another shot in the belly? NBD. The least of my worries. It isn’t until days after surgery, that one even cares about the normal hygiene of life.

On with the story.

I begin with a quote from John on Dec 3rd, 2015. “The bleeding started at 9:10 p.m.(Dec2) By 9:25 she was in the operating room. I think she was being closed up around 4 a.m.(Dec3) This was all much more severe than what she went through last January. Several of the medical people, including the lead surgeon, told us they had never seen anyone before survive what Ann just went through. Ann is still in the body.” Then one from James.(Dec3) “Mom is far from out of the woods. Because so few people survive her type of bleed, they have no idea what her recovery will look like. Dr. Fanning’s PA told us that if anyone besides Dr Fanning had been outside Mom’s door, she would not have survived.

“She has blood stained hair and dried blood on her skin with a lot of swelling in the face but she is rebounding like a pro i.e. Like a Holiday.” James Bjorlie

The term for what Ann had is an “Aortic Esophageal Fistula Rupture.” The more we learn about her peril the more thankful we are for God’s mercies to Ann. There were several points where we could have been misdirected, but were not. When so many do not have a happy outcome, we marvel and say “why us?” There is the old saying of one of the Scottish Covenanters, “I am immortal until my work is done.” John Bjorlie (Dec7, 2015)

“All I can say is “wow” and praise the Lord our God! At 9:15 last night (Dec 2), Dallas and I were on our way back from Lansing when we came across your post that Ann just had another “episode” and was wheeled out of the room. We prayed!!!! It’s amazing how many people God was directing to pray for Ann right during the critical moments. I don’t understand God but I’m sure glad we can trust Him. We’ll still be praying” That is a quote from a friend on the FB page. This means they were praying as I was being wheeled to OR.

The following is from my recollections in 2017. I began my Remembrance and Praise post recounting God’s mercies two years ago.

Luke 18:43 “And immediately he recovered his sight, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.”

This scripture was in my reading yesterday morning and I thought it’s sentiments spoke my heart. So here goes. Praise Him with me!

Wednesday morning December 2, 2015, began a battery of tests. I actually do not remember much from that day except having a CT scan and no food or water. In the afternoon I encouraged John to go to prayer meeting for supper. He went and stayed for the meeting as well. Their scripture reading was Psalm 23. They lingered on “walking through the valley of the shadow of death,” and what that could mean? He had no idea we were about to enter that shadow.

As John joined me, Dr. Fanning was in my room explaining I had a fistula coming off my aorta that was touching my esophagus and dripping blood into my throat. He proceeded to tell us that they do not do this surgery repair at Spectrum and I’d have to go to Cleveland Clinic! He had talked with his colleagues and they simply would not assist him in such a risky surgery. What I needed done had never been attempted at this hospital. He was obviously disturbed and was trying to let us know how serious this was when his phone rang and he stepped out before we could ask any questions.

We hardly knew what to ask as we were shocked at this news. As soon as he left, John said, “Let’s pray.” He asked the Lord to raise me up like He did Dorcas. I was so emotional I could not utter a word. I did not want to cry because it would hurt. I know exactly what I would have prayed, “that they would find a way to do the surgery here.” Upon our “Amen,” I said to John, “I feel that pressure, something’s happening, I think I’m going to throw up.” And I began to vomit blood each time my heart beat. John held my shoulders and sat beside me watching the color drain from my face.

Much of the following is from John’s recollection as I lost consciousness before they even put me on the bed. First one nurse, then another appeared. Then five nurses. Dr. Fanning arrived and soon I was on the way to the OR. I remember trying to get their attention to tell them I could not breath. They told me, “you’re doing really good Ann, hang in there!” And I remember thinking, ” No I’m not, why don’t you give me oxygen?” I told them 3 times that I could not breath, each time thinking,”They aren’t getting this, I’m about to quit breathing!” And then I did.

I’ve been told that the surgery began around 9:30 pm and lasted until around 4:30 am. Three of the kids from Lansing arrived before midnight to sit with their Dad. The “out of state” kids got flights the next day as the medical staff told John to call his kids home. I’ve read the Dr’s report about my surgery and he says when I entered OR: my pulse was thready, I had no blood pressure, and I was not breathing. They gave me multiple blood products, as I had completely bled out!

With so little hope I am amazed at the determination of this surgeon and his medical team. I’ve since heard, that no one expected me to recover. Not one. Even if I woke up, would I have my mind, due to lack of oxygen. Would my kidneys function? Many questions surrounded my whole recovery as this hospital had never before done this surgery. Not one medical person had ever seen someone survive this kind of rupture.

The next thing I remember(after not being able to breath) is looking up at dimly lit lights, a breathing tube down my esophagus, and my children coming and going. When recalling events surrounding my surgery and hospitalization, and we realize now that many ICU rules were broken (in my case) because they did not expect me to recover. I had multiple children in my room. Once the breathing tube was taken out, even friends came into ICU!

We thank God that we went to the ER when we did. It was Tuesday late afternoon. All our friends, Facebook friends, and family soon became aware I had been hospitalized. What do Christians do for friends when there is a need? They pray. So by Wednesday night at prayer meetings all over the world people were praying for my health, even though we had no idea what was wrong and how very seriously my life was endangered. One friend I noticed via a thread on Facebook, praying for me at the time of my rupture. She is an hour earlier and had read on FB I’d been hospitalized.

Do I believe in God? You had better believe I do. Does God answer prayer? Yes, yes He does. Was He gracious in giving me back my life? He was.

So, my friends, it was two years ago today that I experienced an Aortic Esophageal Fistula Rupture and my life was spared. I cannot speak highly enough of my surgeon and the medical team that worked all night long fighting for my life. I cannot begin to thank enough, all the prayer warriors who gave time and emotional energy to lift my cause to the God who sees. You prayed then and continued to pray for me as I began to heal. Thank you. May God bless you and make His face to shine upon you. I’ll finish this story tomorrow.