Monday, November 04, 2013

Personal Testimonies of Faith ~ Hiedi

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Heidi is sharing her testimony today. I have had the privilege of getting to know Heidi and her family for the past year or so ever since they began attending our church. Heidi is the sweet lady who showed me how to make jam. :)


My childhood would be considered idyllic by many.  I was raised in a loving Christian home by both my parents who loved each other very much.  I did accept Christ at a young age and grew through high school and college by Bible study and memorizing scripture.  I did, however, descend from a long line of what some would call worry-warts.  Both my mom and my grandma were excellent examples of what a Christian woman should be, but they both were crippled by worry at times, and in those times they were not living abundantly. It was like what Paul would term their “thorn in the flesh”, almost like a spiritual kryptonite.  I witnessed their struggles and began having my very own at a young age.  I was very shy, and new situations really created a lot of anxiety in me.  It was easier to be a loner than have to put myself out there with people.  I was also a master at imagining worst case scenarios in my head and paralyzing myself with the what-ifs in life. 

I also felt like I had big shoes to fill.  My mom was often larger than life.  She was a beautiful, take-charge person who was a natural leader and well loved by all.  She had an inspiring testimony where she was in a severe car accident in college and was trapped for hours in the car, spent months in the hospital, and told she would never walk again.  She became a walking miracle after first using leg braces, then no longer needing assistance.  It was when she was in leg braces that she met my dad who was wounded body, mind, and spirit from the Vietnam War.  She was always so impressed with how on their first date they arrived late to a Paul Revere and the Raiders concert and it did not bother him at all to walk across the room with a girl in leg braces for everyone to see.  He was too impressed with everything else to let that bother him.  Anyways, my mom went on to inspire many when she was named Miss Southwest at her college which was basically a beauty/popularity/character contest all rolled into one.  She also led retreats, and I remember her traveling all over to speak and teach when I was growing up.

Despite feeling somewhat daunted by having such a strong personality for a mom, we were quite close.  We lived in Springfield, MO and when I was in high school, my dad’s job moved to Arizona.  My mom wanted me to finish my senior year and then she also wanted to support me in my first year at her nearby alma mater, Southwest Baptist University.  It was very hard for both of us when our house finally did sell and she had to leave me and go to the desert. However, circumstances quickly changed and we wouldn’t be parted for long.

It was the end of my sophomore year, and I flew to Phoenix to visit my parents and younger sister for a few weeks.  I knew my mom had not been feeling well and even had a trip to the ER where she was admitted to the hospital.  They suspected she had some kind of blockage in her intestines, but after running some tests on her heart, a cardiologist rushed into her room and had them remove the IVs.  He realized that she was in heart failure.  Her other organs were not getting enough blood and so they were shutting down, and the fluids they were putting in her were not being eliminated.  Her lungs were filling with it and she was quickly drowning in her own fluids.  It wasn’t until I arrived for my visit that I was made aware of her outlook which was basically she needed a heart transplant to live.  The decision for me to move to Arizona and to support my family was clear.

Fortunately, or should I say miraculously, I was at loose ends.  I had been planning to transfer to a Christian college in Arkansas where my boyfriend since high school went.  We had decided the long distance relationship was too tough.  I was in finals of my sophomore year when he got back from college for the summer, and I had the overwhelming feeling that we were not meant to be together.  It made no sense at the time, but after praying I realized my choice to break up was clear.  I called to tell my mom the news and there was no answer.  I remember telling my roommate that I felt something was wrong with my mom and I was worried she was in the hospital.  I wasn’t shocked when my dad finally called and told me that this was in fact the truth.  It was good to get to Arizona to be able to support my family. Everything quickly fell into place as I transferred to ASU, made lots of great friends at the college group at church and was able to watch my All-State sister play basketball her senior year in high school and win the championship.  My mom had passed the rigorous tests to be placed on the heart donor list.  My perfectionist mom had to let go of the reins and let her messy daughter learn to clean, cook meals and grocery shop.  Before, this was not allowed!  Now, she had no choice. 

 Spring break was nearing and our church was planning a trip to Mexico to build houses.  My sister was set to go and I really wanted to as well.  My mom seemed reluctant for us to go and I strongly felt that I needed to stay close to home.  It was in the middle of Spring Break and I was in my room talking to a friend on the phone when I felt I should go check on my mom.  I went in the kitchen where I found her lying on the floor.  She was not breathing.  I grabbed for the phone and called 911 and started my feeble attempts at CPR.  She was turning blue before my eyes, but help arrived quickly.  I called my dad to let him know what happened.  In the meantime, I prayed and felt oddly surreal as I saw the ambulance off and waited for my dad to arrive to take me to the hospital.  I felt surrounded in absolute peace which made no sense to my worry wart self.  The scripture: Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee had been running through my mind through the entire ordeal.  I hadn’t realized I had memorized it before and then I remembered a small wall plaque in our kitchen.  The verse was Isaiah 26:3 and basically says when we trust and focus on God, He will bring us perfect peace.  I can attest to that fact.  Here I was in the most traumatic experience of my life and I felt utterly calm.  I would continue to feel God’s real comfort and peace in the many hard months ahead.

My mom ended up being revived at some point, but she was in a coma for a few days.  The concern was that she would have brain damage because from talking with me, they estimated she had been without air for 5-8 minutes.  Our fears were confirmed when she did awaken.  She did remember us but was very confused and sometimes thought my sister and I were still small children and she forgot that her dad was dead and other important things.  It would be like she was learning things for the first time every time we told her that her father had died.  She didn’t seem to have any short term memory.  It was kind of like the classic Saturday Night Live skit that Tom Hanks did about the guy with no short term memory.  It’s funny to watch on T.V., but no fun in real life.  She also couldn’t be trusted to be alone.  She would pull IVs out.  She even pulled the feeding tube out of her nose and when the nurse asked her, she denied it even though she had it in her hand.  She was very sweet, innocent, and childlike in this state and a favorite with the nurses.

The memory issues posed a problem after mom was finally sent by helicopter to University Medical Center in Tucson.  The psychologists felt that it wouldn’t be right for her to have a heart transplant.  We had to go through a hearing with the doctors in which we begged for her to stay on the transplant list.  The head transplant doctor, Dr. Copeland had been charmed by mom before her memory loss and fought along with us. Fortunately, they decided to keep her on the transplant list, but her health was so bad she had to stay in the hospital until a heart could be found.  The process was complicated by the fact that she was so petite.  She would need a child’s heart to fit.  Her heart was quickly wearing out and an artificial heart would need to be used as a bridge to a real heart.  The only artificial heart that would work was experimental from Berkley and the doctor watched a video on how to put it in before the procedure!  Of course mom still couldn’t be trusted to leave wires and other things alone and she actually pulled out part of the device in the night and had to be whisked into emergency surgery to reattach it. 

Mother’s Day was approaching and our story was featured in the Tucson paper and on the news as a human interest piece about two girls wanting a new heart for their mom for Mother’s Day.  The new heart finally did arrive a few days later to our relief.  My mom never regained her short term memory.  She was also a lot more laid back than before.  My dad once said that it was like he was married to two different women and he loved both of them.  The new heart enabled us to keep her around for 8 more years, but the antirejection drugs she had to take ended up destroying her other organs.   

I learned many lessons in this time; mostly that God was real to me and provided me with a supernatural peace at so many points on the journey.  I also lived the cliché that faith isn’t faith until its only thing you are holding onto. My mom may have had a physical heart transplant, but as Christians we all have a spiritual heart transplant.  As it says in Ezekiel 36:26,” I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit with in you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (NKJV)

Please consider sharing your testimony and letting your light shine!

"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." ~Matthew 5:14-16



Anonymous said...

I never heard the details of this story from your participation and I am glad to know. Have often thought about how quickly you and Heather had to grow up and accept your mother's fate and take care of your dad. You are a good writer, Heidi and should consider writing something for publication some day when you are not so busy. With love, Kay

Unknown said...

Loved reading this. Quite a story!


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