Reflections from the Edge of Death 2
After my surgery, I was placed in the cardio-vascular surgical ICU. But my recovery was not going smoothly. I developed Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)—a life-threatening condition in which inflammation of the lungs and accumulation of fluid in the air sacs leads to low blood oxygen levels. I had to be on mechanical ventilation to deliver oxygen and a continuous level of pressure (called PEEP [positive end-expiratory pressure]) to my lungs.
During these four weeks battling ARDS, I had to be deeply sedated with medications—basically placed in a medically-induced coma—because if I would awaken, my blood pressure would skyrocket and my oxygen levels would plummet. This was a tremendously stressful time for my family and friends—a rollercoaster ride of their daily asking the nurses, “What’s his PEEP?” The higher the PEEP, the worse the news: my oxygen levels were so low that the machine had to keep my lungs expanded to help get oxygen from the lungs into the bloodstream.
At three weeks, 6 days, my wife, Linda asked my pulmonologist when I would be able to come out of the coma, and he said he did not know if or when I would. This was a jolting revelation.
The next day, by the grace of God, I woke up without complications!
That next week I would sleep a lot. But when I was awake, I found myself surrounded by family, friends, and many people I know from different local churches and even the Starbucks at which I frequent. Without my knowing it, they had been visiting me the entire time I had been in the ICU.
And it struck me: These people are precious. My life—every day and every moment—is precious. How many days have I taken life and friends and family for granted? How often have I made it a priority to love the people in my life? Not very often. God has placed me on this earth and has given me opportunities to reach out to people and care for them, and yet I had often just lived as if I’ll always have those opportunities tomorrow or next week or next year. I am not guaranteed a tomorrow or a next week—none of us are.
We named our daughter Kaira—we feminized the Greek word “kairos,” which means a measure of time, often as the “opportune time,” a specific and decisive point, a divinely allotted time or season. Kaira and her twin brother Joel were born at a particularly difficult time in our life, and we wanted to remind ourselves that God’s timing is always good.
While I laid there in the ICU, I thought of the kairos times of life—the times of opportunity that I had allowed to slip by, the opportunities wasted. I pledged to live fully in those kairos moments—“While we have opportunity (kairos), let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Galatians 6:10) “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time (kairos), because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:15). “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity (kairos)” (Colossians 4:5).
The Bible passage that has been a constant comfort to Linda in these stressful times is 1 Peter 5:6-7.
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time (kairos), casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”
What a comfort—God has a kairos reserved for us as well! In those darkest times in the hospital, I wondered if I would ever see a time when I’d be home again—hugging my children, holding my wife, laughing with my friends, talking about spiritual things with my family, doing the work I love, and even blogging again…
And here I am…God has brought me through. He is good!