A Personal Story: A Christmas Miracle

28 Dec

          For the world’s 2.1 billion Christians, Christmas is a holy time of year.  It is a season when we celebrate miracles and nestle in the love and goodness of God, who sent His Son to live among us.  I’d like to share a deeply personal story – an account written by my obstetrician, Dr. Sam Law, shortly after the birth of my third child.  I hope it reminds fellow Christians that God loves us deeply and that He is alive and actively at work in both our world and our individual lives.  For non-Christians, I hope it inspires hope and an openness to question.

          This experience has been one of the most poignant of my life.  The physical impact is obvious.  It was two full years before I felt fully myself.  But to me, the effects on my system of beliefs, my understanding of who I am, and my relationship with God far surpass what I experienced physically.  I believe I’ve been blessed with a concrete expression of grace and I’ll never be the same.

A Christmas Miracle

Christmas Eve 1994

Dr. Sam Law

          I started medical school twenty-two years ago this past summer. Over the years I have witnessed many occurrences that defied scientific explanation.  I have seen women who conceived after stopping medical treatment when they had been unable to conceive with any of the myriad of infertility treatments.  I have seen babies who thrived in the nursery when they were initially given little hope of survival.  I have seen women who are living today when they had been given only a short time to live because of some usually fatal disease.  In all of these events I have seen the hand of God rather than luck or fate.  Over the last two weeks I have witnessed the most amazing occurrence of my career.  It has been so amazing that I have felt compelled to share it with many people whom I have encountered.  One of these was our pastor, who after hearing the story, felt as I do that God had worked a miracle in the life of this young woman.  Dr. Turner asked me to share her story with you tonight.

          The first week of December, a young woman having her third child suffered a cardiac arrest during labor.  She was sitting up in bed conversing with those around her when she described a feeling of light-headedness and her blood pressure gradually fell over a one to two minute period.  When her blood pressure fell to a very low level, her heart stopped beating.  Fortunately, one of the anesthesiologists was at her bedside and he immediately began resuscitation and called for emergency assistance.  External heart massage and assisted ventilation were instituted within a very short time.  For ten minutes there was no electrical activity in her heart.  As the mother’s condition worsened the baby’s heart rate fell to about sixty beats per minute, one-half of normal.  When the mother’s heart began beating again, she was taken to the operating room for an emergency cesarean section.  Because there was still no measurable blood pressure, the heart massage was continued.  The mother’s condition was so critical that no anesthesia could be given.  She did not flinch as her abdomen was opened.  The blood flow was so limited that there was very little bleeding from the operation.  The baby was delivered eighteen minutes after his heart rate fell.  The baby was born alive, but very depressed and was immediately placed on a respirator.  He was transferred to the newborn intensive care unit in critical but stable condition. The mother’s blood pressure began to be detected about thirty minutes after her arrest.  As her condition improved, she began to hemorrhage from the site of the operation.  It was believed that the only disease that could cause this dramatic picture was an amniotic fluid embolus.  This disease is very rare occurring in an estimated one in 100,000 deliveries or fewer. The disease is about 80% fatal, and if a patient recovers, the diagnosis is always questioned.  A feature of this condition is a severe blood clotting abnormality.  Because of the large blood loss, blood transfusions were started in the operating room during the surgery.  After two hours of surgery, the bleeding was controlled adequately to transfer the young woman to the surgical intensive care unit.  She was comatose.  She was still requiring the respirator.  She was receiving medication to stimulate her heart and her blood pressure.  She was continuing to receive blood to control the blood loss from her surgery which was continuing.

          In obstetrics, the patient, her family, and the medical team all expect a joyous outcome.  When a different outcome is experienced, the feeling of sadness quickly develops into a gripping despair.  Concern was voiced about her young husband, her two young children at home, and her newborn in the ICU.  The greatest fear, however, was that this young, healthy body had been resuscitated to a mindless existence.  During the first night, the respirator requirements, and the medication needs remained unchanged.  She received over 40 units of blood products.  In the morning, she began to move her arms and legs, and when her name was called she would slowly turn her head in the direction of the person calling but she would not look directly at the person.  The neurologist who consulted said that her movements were more reflexes than evidence of any significant brain function.  He cautioned everyone that her prognosis was very grave.  The baby showed early signs of improvement, and was rapidly weaned off the respirator showing no sign of brain injury; He was discharged from the lCU in a few days.  The mother’s bleeding problem resolved within the first 24 hours.  The second night in the ICU, she tried to sit up in bed. and seemed to be trying to get out of bed.  She was sedated to prevent her from injurying herself since she was still connected to the respirator and many IV lines and monitors.  Even with the sedative, she seemed to be looking appropriately at the person talking to her as if she understood.  The neurologist still cautioned that there was no evidence of normal brain function.  The third night in the ICU, just 48 hours after her arrest, she wrote a note to her nurse. The note said, “What happened to me?”

          Since that time her recovery has been rapid.  She left the ICU on the sixth day and was discharged from the hospital to her home on the ninth day.  Her baby seems completely normal.  She is receiving some physical therapy for a weakness in her left arm, and also some speech therapy.  This patient’s story spread through the hospital staff like no other in recent memory.  The reactions have varied.  Some skeptics have said that she must not have really been as sick as she seemed to be.  But those who cared for her know that that is not true.  Other individuals have said that she was lucky.  Luck may be responsible for winning the lottery or a football game, but it seems to be unrelated to these events.  Most people have praised the doctors or modern medical science.  While I do not want to discount the quality or importance of the care that she received, none of the medical team involved in her care can relate what he did to achieve this amazing result.  I believe that the medical team were instruments in the hand of God providing a framework for Him to perform a miraculous healing in the lives of this young woman and her newborn child.

          To me these events are as miraculous as many of the stories that we read in the Bible.  I still have many questions about miraculous healings. There are two things of which I am absolutely certain. One is that God is present with us in this place at this time just as He has been in other places and earlier times. The second thing of which I am certain is that God cares about us and that He will for reasons that we cannot understand occasionally perform a miracle that we can see if we have the faith to see it.  “To God be the glory, great things He has done.”


4 Responses to “A Personal Story: A Christmas Miracle”

  1. Vikki December 28, 2011 at 9:38 am #

    God is good! Always…even when we experience challenges in our lives. I’m delighted that I have you as a special friend! Happy New Years! xo

  2. Jackie December 28, 2011 at 10:19 am #

    Thank you for sharing this Pam. You never cease to amaze!
    Happy, blessed New Year.

  3. John Fletcher Elder January 2, 2012 at 3:16 pm #

    God is gracious

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