On June 26, I wrote the following and neglected to post it. I am writing this short update to request prayer. This Friday, June 30th, Pastor Esposito will go to the hospital to take the swallow test again. Please pray he passes and that this is a step toward one day being able to remove the feeding tube. He's been doing very well with speech therapy which helps with swallowing/eating.
That Friday the test was done at the hospital. I watched and recorded the test as I did last time. He had gotten up early for a shower and then left to the hospital. He was very tired. He has been swallowing 10 bites, but he was stuck on the first bite which stayed in a pocket in his throat. The flap that protects the airway apparently didn't move, and he wasn't coughing enough to clear the bite. The therapist at the hospital spent the next while with the suction device trying to provoke his cough to get that up. Then she tried a thinner bite hoping that would work to cause a cough. She stopped at that point, as it was still there. She did not give clearance for ANY food. Last time he was cleared for "pudding thick." Then I made a mistake of asking if she thinks that he can ever progress toward removing the tube and eating. She said at best "Pudding thick for oral gratification" but not now and to continue with small crushed ice chips. It seemed a step backward. I think the therapist back in HB and I both had hopes that he'd pass further levels, so needless to say I was disappointed. To me this was to be our next big step.
My mistake was in the asking. Over the last few years, folks have asked me, "What are the doctors saying" about this or that. I say, "They aren't saying anything." That's the truth for one, because they can't say anything will ever change. It's been that way from the coma stage—"No hope". It was 10% he'd wake up at all, and no promise of anything further. So to ask is to ask for disappointment. I should know the answer already.
Every step accomplished is purely by the grace of God. I asked my husband this morning how it feels to be out of the wheel chair for a bit (since the folks at High Hopes put him on a regular chair for his first exercise). I said, "Pretty nifty?" And he said, "Pretty nifty." I said, "Yes since you are still supposed to be in a coma. And it's pretty nifty that you said, 'pretty nifty' since you shouldn't be talking either!"
Back to the testing. Several days later the speech therapist from HB called me and we talked. Praise the Lord she was VERY positive. She said that last time it was pure aspiration. This time it was labeled "penetration" and that is a GOOD thing. She said even though we expected way better, it's improvement. She also said not to be discouraged that she'd keep seeing him and for me to also do the exercises and crushed ice too. She said that we'd try the test again in a couple months. I am confident they wouldn't change any future predictions, but we'll take progress and Praise God for it. One hard thing is that he's been saying, "I'm starving" or asking for "real food." (Thank God he CAN say that!)
Also, please pray as we do a trial for a week using a regular hospital bed. He's been on a special air mattress to prevent pressure sores (he had gotten them on his heels at one point and elsewhere another time). The purpose of the change would be to see if he can tolerate it and thus be able to try being set up on the bed with his feet on the floor to balance and strengthen his trunk.
Please also pray once again about insurance and God's timing in everything. I was able to get permission to take my husband to our church picnic for a bit on the 4th of July. It was really nice for him to finally get to see some of our folks and their families he hadn't seen in a long time. I hope it was encouraging to him. He seemed to enjoy it, though at times he was very tired. He was exhausted when he returned to HB, but I think it was well worth it.
Thank you for your love and prayers and continued encouragement to our family. It means a lot to us.
Thank you for reading our updates and for your faithful long-time prayer for Pastor Esposito. It's been a month now since the trach removal. Overall, Pastor is doing well. He's been more alert, and his voice seems to be getting stronger. We're very thankful that speech therapy is still working with him on his voice and swallow. He's definitely getting stronger. He's able to use his tongue to press back against the stick, move his tongue side to side, attempt to lick his lips. These are all evidence he's getting stronger in that area. One thing still lacking that's important (and most of the reason he was on the trach so long) is that he still can't seem to figure out how to clear or cough intentionally. His reflexive cough has been there for a while, but it's still really important for him to be able to do this on purpose. I don't know what's working or not in the throat. Please pray it all wakes up! I talked to one family and their loved one has been told that some of the muscles in there are paralyzed. I was worried this past week since he was very congested. They did an X-ray and blood work to make sure it isn't pneumonia. This morning though he still sounds very congested. They said the X-ray revealed no pneumonia. We were praying for that! Thank the Lord. I think it sometimes sits in his throat and he can't process it, but thankfully it's not in his lungs. We pray God gives us the next miracle and Pastor is able to have the feeding tube removed and eat again. As he gets his feeding tube feeding, we thank the Lord that his organs are able to work and digest food at all, but we also pray for the miracle of eating and removing the feeding tube soon.
Therapy is going well. He was lifting his left leg all the way, moving it forward, and setting his body weight on it in the walking frame. This is an improvement over just moving it forward while someone helps lift it. We've seen a bit more on the right side. Praise God for allowing us the opportunity to attend High Hopes Head Injury. I pray each time as he's in various equipment that God will use it. I realize it's only God's touch that heals.
Pastor has his very alert days, which are much more alert and communicative than ever, and he has his days like yesterday where he is just exhausted. I think he gives all he can until he just can't give any more. He's in very good spirit just about all the time. He smiles and laughs a lot. Yesterday, he couldn't keep his eyes open for speech therapy and wasn't opening his mouth. I whispered, jokingly, "Don't be stubborn" which he found to be very funny and he was laughing out loud. We laugh mostly at the sign language he attempts to use, but which I can't understand! I say all the time, "We can laugh or cry–may as well as laugh." (Not that I never cry ). On the medical side, I do hope to ask the neurologist soon if he thinks it's safe to remove or lighten the Keppra more. Besides that, the only medication is a light "non-drowsy" allergy medication. I did notice a new level of distant awareness recently as he was turning his head toward the hallway on the right (he tends toward the left) and even asked what someone was doing out there.
One of my concerns, at least sometimes what I wonder, is what my husband is thinking Spiritually. So often I ask him little questions to see what his responses are. The other day I played one of our family's favorite songs, "I Have Been Blessed." When it said, "arms that can raise, legs that can walk," I wondered what He was thinking. I asked, "Can we still thank God without the arms that can raise and legs that can walk?" To which he gave a sincere nod of his head.
In another example, I listened to Pastor Fugate's message on moms on Mothers' Day. I told my husband the thing that stood out to me was when he said about praying moms that the most influential prayer that his mom ever prayed was a prayer that wasn't answered. Then he went on to talk about how his mom prayed for his dad's healing and God said no and his dad went to heaven. He talked about how his mom continued to trust God anyway. When I told my husband that lesson I'd taken from the message he raised his left arm as high as he could and with a closed fist did three "fist pumps" as in AMEN.
Those moments are such an encouragement to me knowing my husband praises and thanks God still in spite of his confinement to his body for so long. That's what I want for Him and for our family to know God's in control still and to be able to see all the goodness of God. We were blessed to be moved in a middle bed when we left sub-acute (I'd have wanted a window bed.) between the two most encouraging patients here. One said yesterday, "Have I told you how I know if it's a good day?" "I woke up!" (I did talk to him about the potential of waking up in Heaven one day.) Today I said to him, "It's a beautiful day, isn't it? But every day is a beautiful day, right?" He said, "Yes, every day is a beautiful day if you just open your eyes."
Thank you again for your prayer and encouragement!
Praise the Lord the trach was finally removed Saturday evening May 6th. This is a miracle! Once it was removed, Pastor Esposito seemed very alert and able to communicate easier. He's had a very good week. After a week, he was moved to the SNF. As of today he was very tired and seemed a bit "rumbly" in his chest. We were a bit worried today that maybe through the night he was unable to cough or swallow properly. Please continue to pray for strength in swallow and cough. It was only a couple weeks before removing the trach that he finally seemed to have the ability to cough completely to the mouth. He still needs prayer for that strength to improve to do so regularly. I believe speech therapy will still work with him this week on these.
Thank you for praying, and thank the Lord! Many folks have acknowledged that this is God. Isaiah 41:20, the verse we've had posted from the start, reads, "[Pray for a Miracle] That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the LORD hath done this..."
Thank you for reading our last prayer update. I wanted to just post this quick but important praise report and prayer request.
After 3 ½ years, the RT's will most likely be removing Pastor Esposito's trach completely this weekend. Two test results are pending. We are excited, but I must admit it's a bit scary (I've seen complications of other patients while being there so long). What I really wanted was to see the ENT (pending appointment) and pass the swallow test at the hospital; then remove it. But Friday the pulmonologist said let's take these two tests; then if they go well—let's do it! I've said that when the pulmonologist said it's time that we would do it. I mentioned my concerns, and they thought that he was ready and those wouldn't be determining factors. The speech therapist assured me she thinks he'll eat better without it (last time I mentioned to her she's asked me "why would you take it out when he could easily aspirate and get pneumonia". But she sees how much progress he's made.)
Please pray the Great Physician has His hand on Pastor Esposito, and that all goes well.
Thank you for your faithful prayer.
I'd like to ask forgiveness for the lateness of this update. I appreciate that so many folks read and depend upon these updates to pray for Pastor Esposito, and I feel bad that I've taken so long to write another. I have been eager to share some blessings! Pastor Esposito seems to all of us to have begun improving at a faster pace than over the last few years. (Of course, he still has so very far to go and from an outside perspective I'm sure doctors would say it's slow and holds no promises.)
Let me share some examples of alertness and progress:
These are just some of the little but big ways that we've been excited to see God working. I often say, "Joe do you realize what a really big miracle little things like this are?" Then I tell him about how absolutely nothing outwardly worked and how far he's come.
God really has done so much and brought so many miracles! There was a session at Faith Baptist's ladies conference by a missionary of 10 years. She gave her life testimony of a very bad childhood. She became a bus kid and got saved, eventually going to Christian school. She felt unworthy but grateful and continually said that she was going to be a missionary like her bus captains. Then the day came when Satan sat on her shoulder showing her all that she didn't have in comparison to the "Christian family kids". He showed her how hard she'd had it. She struggled until once again she was able to see how good God had been to her. She was blessed to marry a third generation missionary. She gave the illustration of the black dot on the white piece of paper. Everyone says they see a black dot, and she reminded us that we really see a big piece of white paper. Her testimony was powerful, and God used it to work in me. Her testimony reminded me in some ways of me. I didn't grow up in church, but God led me to a neighborhood church where I picked up a tract and was saved at home that night. I eventually ended up in Christian school–a bus kid of sorts. I always felt that unworthy gratefulness to God, especially when I got to marry Joe Esposito. I felt I was the most unworthy candidate! And to go on and share all of God's goodness in my life since will have to wait for the writing of a book. But how easy it is to listen to Satan on your shoulder causing you to look at the black dot and forget the white piece of paper! God really is very good if we open our eyes and look at the blessings all around us.
A few other updates:
• Trach removal: Pastor is back to being capped around the clock with no oxygen. His lungs seem clear. An ENT appointment to verify there's no build up scar tissue, etc. is in process of approval. Today the tube is being downsized again–one more step forward. They will observe a month and see how that goes.
• Today we are having an evaluation for eating again. We haven't tried since the pneumonia. Speech therapy also is going to do an evaluation for a report necessary for the eye tracking device free trial the company evaluator recommended we do.
Someone asked me recently, "When are you going to take Pastor home?" Another asked, "What's keeping you from taking your husband home" The short answer is when God gives me peace that it's what is best for him and what will help him progress. I'd also want some professional advice that he's medically ready and that I can safely take over the care that presently is done by RT's, CNA's, RNA's, the doctors, and nurses here. As of yet he's still in sub acute level care. (A majority of skilled nursing centers don't even accept patients at that care level.) I'd love to have him home a long time ago; and I never stop thinking about, struggling back and forth, crying, and praying about it. Please pray for God's guidance that when it's time He will make it very clear. My husband used to say, "Don't make a move unless it's very clearly God moving you." That sense hasn't come yet and is probably why I do struggle so much. In the meantime, we will keep on praying and doing what we are doing and praise God for the increased level of progress we have seen lately.
Thank you again for praying for Pastor Esposito. Let me first let you know what's happened since the last update!
Pastor also had a bad UTI this past week and a severe allergic reaction. But again, praise the Lord as he's doing so much better. He's bounced back very quickly. I got him back to High Hopes and he did well. I thought a positive note through the Pneumonia was that I could hear voice even with only T-bar. He was never able to do that in the past, so I see more strength in that sense. As for eating, I think I may have caused the pneumonia through feeding, though there's no way to know. That's assumed when the pneumonia is on the right side as his was. It also could be that he just wasn't able to cough up some fluids that built up there. He won't be eating for a while until everything is back to normal.
One of my biggest praises/blessings is that over the last couple of weeks my husband has smiled and laughed more than ever. I told some of the children it has been like the old Dad again. It's like a mutual enjoyment of fellowship we haven't had in over 3 years. It also seems that at just about any time other than when he seems exhausted he has full awareness and understanding. It's no longer like he comes in and out as in the past. When folks come to visit, he really seems to enjoy the visits. (Thank you to those who do and to our pastoral staff who have faithfully taken the time to drive to Huntington Beach to see him and encourage us both.) His short-term memory isn't 100% but is improving. (As I said before his long-term memory of people, events, facts is way better than mine!)
I also want to praise the Lord for His faithfulness. He is so good. Though I struggle, He never changes. I thank Him for His patience while I learn the lessons He has for me. I thank Him for His constant love and the encouragement He sends at just the moment I need it most. Here are a couple of examples for which I'd like to give Him praise. I have never been the touchy, huggy type of person though I've tried to learn for sake of others. But one Sunday morning as I received a hug unexpectedly (I wouldn't have asked for a hug.) I hid for a moment and wept, grateful that God would know just what I needed at that moment. On one particular day, I turned and opened the curtain to my husband's room (it faces a back parking lot without any trees or anything, but we like it since it's bright.). On occasion if I didn't want my husband to see me emotional (I try my best to always be on top side when I am with him.) I'd turn that way as if to just look outside for a few minutes. When I did so a beautiful butterfly swirled around just outside the window where you'd least expect to find one reminding me of an early card I'd received that said, "If there were never any change, there'd be no butterflies." I thank Him for His guidance as He leads us along, changing us to fulfill His greater purposes (Romans 8:28). I thank Him for His living Word that is food to the hungry and drink to the thirsty soul. God is so good to give me just the truth I need. Yesterday in a little discouragement, He encouraged me with the first part of a verse of which the latter part has been an encouragement many times over the last few years. "My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness." In the early days when I felt I not only couldn't face the day but couldn't take the next step, He showed me the reality of the truth of His strength in my weakness. Yesterday what leaped out at me was the word "sufficient." In all the areas where I fear or feel inadequate or alone (especially the feelings of aloneness without my husband in everyday life like leading our children or making the decisions) His grace is sufficient. He makes up the gap. There is no lack or disadvantage because He is all I need. When I just know "I can't," HE CAN. "When you find He's all you have, you'll find He is all you need" became so real to me. Thank God He takes our trials and gives understanding to make Scripture more than clichés we've always read and heard but makes them alive and real and at work in our lives.
Thank you for praying and for reading our monthly updates. Here are a few recent updates on the medical side:
God has been very good as He always is! The folks at High Hopes are extremely positive on Pastor's progress. The son of the director walked him for the first time in a while and said it was like "night and day." Today it looked like he was pressing down on his legs somewhat on his own, and he's been doing really well holding the upper body upright. The director told him he is doing well and said, "Joe, we're going to get you up out of that wheelchair enjoying life again." Pray for God's will in everything and for His glory. He's the Great Physician, and our lives and health are in His hands. We want healing, but nevertheless not as we will but as He wills.
Wow! I can hardly believe that it's 2017 already. Though I must admit the holiday season was full of a million mixed emotions. One day I even sat and cried and asked the Lord if we could just fast forward a couple weeks! We have so many blessings to share and God's been so good to us! For weeks the children asked what the Christmas plan was, but I was struggling with decisions. (The last couple of years we loaded up gifts and spent the morning at the nursing facility.) I wanted to venture out and take Pastor home but was wavering. One of my sons encouraged me to do it. That week after about four weeks of being capped and not having oxygen, which, praise God, was such an answer to prayer and tremendous progress, he ended up on the T-bar a few times and back on light oxygen. He also woke one day with fever and a heart rate double the normal. I also received a call Christmas Eve saying the feeding tube had come out, so I told everyone we'd play it by ear. That morning he was on T-bar and oxygen, but the tube had been replaced and X-ray done. I decided to take him as he was and for the first time in three years Pastor Esposito was home. That was the best gift God could give us. I'd always thought that it would be too emotional taking him home and then back to the nursing facility, but after a couple hours he was ready to go back and be put to bed.
We've been praying for a long time to have the trach removed. The pulmonologist came and talked to me about this. There had been a lot of mixed opinions, but he said it's the first time he felt it close. However, the illness was a little setback as Pastor had a lung infection, was vomiting and was on IV antibiotic and sleeping much. (Back to the pulmonologist…) A couple of things the doctor said were potentially the trach could cause some of the problems that prevent its removal. He said that it could be argued a month down the road if he gets pneumonia that we shouldn't have, or he may keep it and get pneumonia and some would argue it's the cause. He said that it can be a double-edged sword, and sometimes there's no right or wrong answer. He said we'd talk again in a couple weeks. Pray for right timing, pastor's healing, and wisdom to make the best decisions. The main question still is whether he can manage secretions adequately without it.
Our daughter Susanna who has served for almost two years as part of our Team Southeast Asia was home for several weeks that was a special treat. She spent a lot of time with her dad and me at the nursing facility and taking her dad to therapy. We surely enjoyed it. Pastor Esposito laughed and had a fun time on Fridays with Susanna and Joanna. He has improved in communication. He is able to talk more. I was playing a sermon for him by Dr. Jeff Fugate entitled "Sometimes You Just Have to Outlast the Storm." My husband said, "Make sure I listen to this." I think he meant don't let him fall asleep. Then twice he pointed to it and said, "This is good!" Later, I was discussing with him a tournament in which the boys were participating out of town. I told him that if I had someone to take good care of him that I'd go with the children. He pulled his arm out of the cover and pointed three times at me and then motioned his arm to the side as in to say, "go."
Another really big blessing I'd like to share is that while at High Hopes in the rolling walking frame, Pastor Esposito began to move a leg forward on his own in the walking frame. That was so very encouraging. We are so thankful for High Hopes! It seems too that his right side is "waking up" more. He is pretty efficient with his left hand and arm like scratching his head, rubbing his eye, trying to use his own version of sign language, etc. High Hopes just got new therapy equipment that works individual fingers and Pastor was able to be on that today. We realize any therapy, medicine, etc. is a tool to potentially be used of God. That's how we pray.
Someone asked me this week if I think my husband will pastor again. I said I don't know. I know God is able if He chooses to do so… but I don't know how God will best fulfill His purposes in our lives, our family, our church. My heart sincerely wants God's will. Though my husband was the most humble man I know, I referenced Nebuchadnezzar totally out of his mind roaming the fields like an animal seven years and then ruling the kingdom again. God raised him up, took him out, and raised him up again. It's in God's hands. But we'll keep praying and doing all we can do in the mean time.
On the note of wishing for the holidays to end, God did change my heart. He reminded me what Christmas traditionally means to us, a celebration of the birth of a Savior not only a baby in a manger; but the bigger picture of the death He came to die to be the sacrifice for our salvation. I also thought of Mary and the privilege to be mother of the Savior, but also the sword that would pierce through her own heart as she watched her first Son die such a horrible death. The privilege was not only being His mother, but being used for the greater purpose of God which needed to include sorrow. Here again is Romans 8:28b. His purpose… I think this was the mentality of the disciples who rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer for Him…. joy in being used by and part of the plan of God. Thank the Lord for counting us worthy to be used to fulfill His purpose to bring glory to Him which includes the sunshine and the storm! I know my trials don't compare even minutely to the Lord, to Mary, or to the disciples!
Thank you once again for your long-time prayer. It certainly means a lot to our family.
The Esposito Family
P.S. Some have asked about the insurance. Things still aren't quite settled, but God graciously provided for a very big expense I need to pay for October the month he lost coverage. Please pray for wisdom to know whether or when I should take my husband home or if I should continue trusting the Lord to provide as is while allowing him more time with sub acute level care. Times like last week when he's sick and struggling make me question the wisdom of thinking I can do it on my own. They immediately did X-ray, labs, a throat culture, put him on the IV, etc. Now today he seems to have some type of urinary tract infection and will have tests again.
As Thanksgiving approaches, I wanted to take a moment to give thanks to the Lord and so many people who have been a blessing specifically over the last three years during my husband's illness. I'll give a bit of an update at the end, but intend specifically to give thanks.
Last week was our annual Couple's Retreat. Of course, it's normal in times like this that thoughts come causing sadness at what isn't as we wish things could be the way they used to be. The temptation is to cry and feel sorry for oneself. Honestly, these feelings pop up frequently and probably always will. While thinking about Couples' Retreat, I remembered a saying I heard recently. "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened." God reminded me of Thanksgiving season and all He's given me. How abundantly blessed I have been and am today! I thought of Job's saying to his wife when she wanted them to just curse God at the heartbreak they were facing (and it was very great). Job basically asked if they should expect to receive only good from God and that hard times would not come. Should we curse God for trials in spite of all the blessings we've experienced? God blesses so greatly; but if we let ourselves, we forget the blessings and focus only on what we wish to be. I was convicted from Revelations recently by the martyrs who "loved not their lives" unto death. I asked God to forgive me for loving MY life too much or wishing at all for it to be as I would rather it be. I do want His plan and His glory.
That day I began to think and weep and pray with thanksgiving. I decided to write my thanks to the Lord and share it as an update.
Thank you Lord for the many years of Couple's Retreats we got to attend together—what sweet memories. I have those memories. It happened. Thank you Lord for 28 years of Monday night dates. Thank you Lord for all the walks in the country clubs holding hands, talking, dreaming and planning our version of what the future would hold. Thank you for regular walks with the children and for all the family times with Dad. Thank you for the family fishing trips. Thank you for letting us rear 8 children together for all those years and for Joe's wisdom and the foundation he set like David who couldn't build the house for the Lord, but he did all the preparation work for his son to do so. Thank you for allowing me to be Joe's wife and helpmeet as we started Pacific Baptist Church and for allowing us to serve there together 25 years in the greatest church with the greatest people. Thank you for Pastor Meyers for all he and his wife have sacrificed through all the years here in the ministry but even more so the last three years. Thank you for using Pastor Meyers to lead our church forward through the hardest days while missing Pastor himself who was not only his pastor but also his close friend since childhood. Thank you for the faithfulness of the members—one of the things that encourages me more than just about anything else. Thank you for the miracle of your church—not missing a beat—continuing to grow and reach a dying world for Christ.
Thank you Lord for sons and daughters and now the best daughters-in-law and son-in-law we could ever have asked as well as five grandchildren. Again, sometimes comes one of those "I wish moments" as I look on the wall beside my husband's bed where I have the grandchildren's pictures. I can instantly cry if I think of how badly Joe wanted grandchildren. His dream he called a multigenerational vision for the family to serve the Lord for generations. Instantly I can have a flood of tears if I dwell there on why Joe doesn't get to enjoy them. Then I can stop and thank the Lord that the vision is being fulfilled, and even that they ARE what gives Joe pleasure when he can't enjoy much else. (Last week we had two of the grandchildren during Couple's Retreat. I am sure my husband enjoyed playing doctor with Mary as she gave Grandpa shots and exercised his hands, etc. I am sure he enjoyed it as we played school with the marker board and I asked in turns her and him to name letters and numbers or name pictures, and they both got 100% on the test. I am sure he enjoyed little Joseph flopping himself on Grandpa's stomach and kissing his cheek, checking out his mole, and momentarily trying to uncap him. It's not what I'd wish, but it's good and thank God for the blessing of grandchildren. How it cheers my heart to walk in the house and sometimes Mary says, not, "Hi Grandma" but "Grandma, do you want to plan hide and seek or tag?")
Thank you, Lord, for children who haven't become bitter at You but have continued to trust You and live their lives for You. I remember Sarah saying in the early days that at least she could say she did have a loving and godly dad for all those years—something many girls didn't have the opportunity to have. I am sure she had fleeing thoughts of what the future held, who would help her finish through her courtship and walk her down the aisle. But she chose to look at the blessing in those difficult early days. And all of our children have. Of course, they miss him and too must have the "I wish" flood their hearts in many situations, but they don't dwell there. And I can't either. Thank you Lord for children who have stood by their Dad and Mom in the midst of growing families and busy lives in ministry – sacrificing personal time, and encouraging us so. Thank you again for adding Cindy and Bruce and Jennifer and their love for the family. You'd never know they weren't original members of the family! Each of the children would make their Dad so very proud of them.
Thank you for our faithful mission's team—another of my greatest joys. I can hardly put into words the gratitude for the willingness of our team to go and give their lives and allow God to do the great work He is doing there. It's one of those "no greater joys" every time I read an update and see pictures. Thank you for the folks there who have been reached whom most I have never met who encourage us from around the world by their prayers and love for us.
Thank you for Pastors, missionaries, and people all over the world who have prayed for us and sought to encourage and bless us in so many ways an occasional text or gift or simply letting us know they still pray. Thank you for even using people we've never met many times when we most need encouragement so that there's no doubt it's YOU Lord.
Thank the Lord for my great family (my parents and other family members) and all they've done to encourage me even from afar and for the long trips my parents have taken to be here and do all they can do to lighten the load. Thank you for my husband's family and the blessing they have been to me and to Joe and for their love of family and for making me feel I'm one of their own siblings as well.
Over these years, I have found that during those longing of the heart times—I have but to thank you Lord—to pick a few songs of thanksgiving to play (the songs we've always sung as a family long before this trial) and through thanksgiving you cheer and change my heart. It's your plan like the old patch song where they sing and the prison walls break open. Thank you for thanksgiving—something that we feeble humans can give as a gift to you but which is just as much for us to remind us of your bountiful blessings in our lives. Thank you Lord!
"Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
It's been three years and one month today since the night Pastor went into the hospital. Sometimes it seems hard to believe it's been so long, and sometimes it seems an eternity. I began an update on October 3rd that stayed on my computer open all month. I'd open it and add to it, change it, or delete from it without ever finishing it. The month of October was perhaps one of the hardest thus far for me personally. But God's been very good to us all. He continues to show His love and care, to give strength and encouragement through His Word and His people, and to provide for needs in unexpected ways. Pastor continues to improve in small ways, step by step. Bro. Schonrog stated it well yesterday in giving an update to a gentleman from our insurance company—if you look at the last week or month you'd say not much improvement. If you look back from the start, there's been a whole lot of improvement! We've come miraculously far, for which we praise the Lord.
In spite of trying to work in advance to assure Pastor would still have coverage (and being told everything was fine), October 1st, he lost all coverage. Someone asked me, "What are you going to do?" My response was that the question isn't what I am going to do since I could do nothing but "What is God doing" or "What is God going to do?" I kept saying, "He's taking us somewhere. I just don't know where." I definitely couldn't just take my husband right home. Our home is surely not handicap accessible, and I have no medical equipment. That's not to mention whether or not I have capability, strength, knowledge to properly take care of his needs 24/7 in a way that he would continue to stay healthy and progress. At the same time, I want so badly for him to be home that I began wrestling with the hope and possibility, along side of the fear of it not being a wise decision or being able to do so in reality, or how I could even make it happen logistically, etc. I was crying to the Lord and begging Him to make His will clear. I don't want to make a wrong move. At the same time I was searching for a policy I could purchase that would give him needed coverage. I hoped that if I got a specific policy I could get the 100 allowed days per year on a general insurance policy for skilled care to take me from now through March to give me time to learn and prepare if coming home is right. But I was told it can't be billed as skilled since he's custodial. Though he's made tremendous progress, they said a patient on a trach for 3 years can't qualify for the therapy needed to qualify for that 100 days per year. I tried all different avenues while praying. Though nothing is solidified yet, I applied through the state for long term coverage. It carries a huge share of cost—which practically speaking is impossible for me to pay going forward (though size of cost makes no difference to God). But it would prevent me from receiving the entire bill for October and November, so I did it for now even though it's not what I wanted.
Please pray God gives wisdom. Please pray that God reveals to me His perfect will and timing. Please pray that I don't make a decision based on either emotion or fear, but that God will help me to do what's best. If bringing him home is best, and God thinks I'm able—I want that. If not, I want to continue being patient in the present situation as he continues to recover little by little while still praying for a big miracle.
Now for some practical updates! High Hopes is going very well. We continue to go Monday through Thursdays. Pastor has definitely made progress. Pastor is able to stand for 45 minutes in the walking frame. He is very alert with no problem with oxygen or blood pressure. He's alert and able to look around. They move the legs for him to help him try to walk again. They'd like for him to stand more at other times as well as sit up in a chair, but it's not practical under the present situation of care. It takes a Hoyer Lift and two people to get him up and put him back to bed. He weighs almost 190 pounds and that's dead weight. I am trying to teach him to lift his hips while lying flat and turn side to side again. Recently, he became able to lift the right knee to bent lying flat. He could pull the left up for a while now. I do feel a "try" in there. Hopefully as God allows him to continue at High Hopes he will become physically stronger and stronger. The RNA at the long term place notices difference for sure.
Pastor's speech has improved. He is quicker at response, and uses more voice. He's very sharp and can go through three pages of questions accurately. The other day I asked what was wrong as he was very sleepy. He clearly said, "I just don't feel good." It's a blessing for him to be able to communicate when he needs to. Thank the Lord. We continue to feed by mouth just a little each time, but he can take a lot more bites and swallow than before.
We backtracked on the capping and trying to eliminate the trach. The RTs decided to try to eliminate oxygen all together. He has not been on a respirator since the first week he went into the hospital. He just had supplemental oxygen when not capped. Everything was very sporadic. At night he was only on a T-bar – breathing in and out the trach with oxygen attached. In the day time we put on the PMV/speaking valve along with oxygen so he was breathing in the trach and out the mouth. When he was capped the oxygen wasn't used at all and he was forced to breathe in and out the mouth (Sometimes ok, sometimes he struggled and it was taken off). Now he's been going 24 hours with the PMV and most of the time with no oxygen. Occasionally, it gets low and they put it back on. Twice while I had him out for therapy it dropped and I got a bit worried (I am alone and driving) but was able to get it up quickly. Overall though, he has been consistent. I want to ask if we can resume capping soon.
Overall, please pray for more energy and wakefulness. I am not sure the balance of needed rest to recover and how much to push him in various activities. Also, please pray that his short term memory continues to improve. Sometimes I believe it's God's mercy and grace that the last thing to recover in a brain injury patient is the short term memory. It means that each day is a new day. I can't imagine if the memory of three years was clear to him. The first indication Pastor has given to me of any desire to go home or get out of the hospital happened in the midst of my October struggle. One morning out of the blue as I was about to shave him – he said, "I want to get out of this place." I asked him, "Why, I am sure there are lots of reasons, but why do you say that now." He replied, "I just want to live a normal life." When my brother-in-law was there he asked him the same "why" to which he replied, "This place is not like home." (Now the next day he didn't remember saying that, and I suppose to some extent I am glad. It was positive as it was a new awareness on his part, but sad as of course I don't want him to be where he is, and also that the reality is that normal in our lives will never be the same again barring a great miracle from the Lord.)
The night of October 2nd as I was lying in bed thinking about the next day being the three year mark of Pastor going into the hospital, and wondering how God would want me to face the day. God gave me the perfect verse upon which to meditate. I can't think of another that could have been just for me that night! Romans 12:12, "Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer…" Praise Him we do still have hope. Be patient. Keep praying. Simple and exactly what I needed. God is good.
Thank you for your continued prayer!
Thank you once again for reading our updates and for praying. We so appreciate the continued prayer and as always it means a lot to us.
Pastor has completed a month at High Hopes Head Injury Rehab. (I recommend looking at their website to learn more about them and see what they do there. They have some video on the home page that's very encouraging with testimonials. It's a pretty amazing place.) I am so thankful that though it seemed just a dream or hope—God has actually brought it to pass! I am also thankful for the way God has provided financially in unexpected ways.
I arrive to Huntington Beach to help get my husband ready in the mornings, and at 8:45 I get him into the medical transport van to leave to Tustin. Initially we were scheduled for 4 hours, but there was a mistake in the initial acceptance letter stating the hours and funding (somehow it was thought he was being sent there from somewhere else that provides the funding), so we've cut it down to 2 hours. For now, that is probably good for him. High Hopes is being so generous still to give us scholarship to cover the majority of the therapy. Few people could afford this level of therapy without the scholarships offered there through fundraising.
Upon arriving at High Hopes, Pastor goes to Physical Rehab. He is in equipment that works the legs and arms at the same time and also works with the brain in what's called "patterning." It's a solid 45 minutes of work out. He grips the handles on his own but occasionally gets tired and slips. Then we just put his hand back on. Some days they get him in a standing/walking frame. They work with getting his weight on his feet and moving the legs. As he better tolerates being up longer periods of time, he will go in the equipment that completely walks the body—moving the legs for him.
Next, he is in a machine that moves the arm in patterns while the patient focuses on the computer screen. The screen shows the pattern along with sound to hopefully connect everything back and awaken the movements. It's called Reo Therapy if you wanted to look it up and see how it works. This is also 45 minutes. In between is orientation.
The speech therapist at Huntington Valley has been working with Pastor twice per week for about 8 weeks. I surely appreciate HVHCC allowing this much time with him. He's definitely improved. I believe this is to be the last week she said. Please continue to pray for strengthening and energy. He can talk, it's just hard work for him.
Please continue to pray for capping and removal of the trach. It's been sort of up and down. I hope to find an Ear, Nose, Throat Specialist that might have some answers for us on what holds him back.
Pastor is gaining too much weight though consuming few calories. I am hoping to present a natural diet plan to the doctor soon, but I want to find or create something that will show calories, nutrients, etc. It will probably need to be fruit and veggie juices (I bring that already) along with some broth for protein needed for healing of the brain. Please pray for wisdom and God's will.
Lastly, our insurance is very up in the air. We could potentially lose coverage as of October 1st and need to find other insurance. Please pray for God's will. I also may need to change my husband to a different facility within LA County since he's presently in Orange County. Please pray for guidance and wisdom. I trust God is leading as always—His will His way. I was sharing with a Respiratory Therapist that traveled with us to an appointment in Pomona on Tuesday that God has brought me to a place to realize that God being in control means that though we don't always understand what He's doing or why, we can rest assured He is doing something within his plan and purpose. The "no's" and the "wait's" fulfill a purpose as much as the answers we desire, so we pray and we trust Him.
Thank you for being part of our lives through prayer!
Thank you for praying for approval for speech therapy. Pastor has been doing this for the last couple weeks and has done extremely well. He doesn't talk much daily, but he will answer questions. If he really needs something he may say a few words, but in speech therapy he works hard and can answer a couple pages of questions. It is just really hard work for him. We are working on quick response as well as exaggerating words and projecting voice.
Praise the Lord! Monday Pastor Esposito will begin the outpatient brain injury rehab for which we've prayed. We are excited to see how the Lord will use it. Please pray for Pastor's endurance and alertness, and that we will be able to make it the entire time each day without having to return to the facility where he stays for any type of physical care. There are still details to work out on getting him up and ready and feedings, etc. Tomorrow I will drive the van from Huntington Beach to Tustin to time how long it will take. I also need to practice putting my husband in and out of the van since I will most likely transport him alone much of the time. I am excited and thankful but nervous! I also want to thank a couple of folks who gave to help with the financial cost. I won't mention the specific names since I haven't asked these folks if it was okay, but it was a surprise, a blessing, and an encouragement. We applied by faith, knowing that if it's what God wants, He'll provide in every detail.
Please pray for our new schedule and for wisdom in restructuring everything. On a daily basis there are so many things we've tried to work on (a full sheet checklist front and back). Personally, I want to work on everything every day, but it's not that practical. Imagine losing the ability to do everything for over two years and trying to regain the strength and know how. It takes lots of time and lots of work. We look forward to seeing what will be accomplished at the rehab! Also, please continue to pray that one day God will just wake him up and heal him completely. In the mean time we'll keep praying and working.
I also want to praise the Lord for His loving kindness and mercies. He is so very good to us. He knows how to encourage us exactly when we need it most and many times from unexpected places. It's so easy to become discouraged or to fail to see the rainbow in the clouds. Our emotions (mine especially I think) bounce this way and that. Last weekend following a wedding of two of our young people who'd pretty much grown up at PBC, I was weeping greatly, wishing my husband could have been there. It was such a beautiful wedding and testimony for the Lord of the reward of faithfulness on the part of the bride and groom and of a church that preaches what's right no matter how unpopular it is in today's culture. It was one of those rewarding days where you say to yourself, for this we've given our lives to serve the Lord through PBC. Then God reminded me of a card I'd unexpectedly received the night before. I hadn't eaten dinner that evening, and it was about 9:30 pm as I was leaving from Pastor's. I decided to buy something to eat nearby. The place was closed, but a worker rushed to the door to say that one of the ladies who worked there left me something as it was her last day working there.
Here are the words written on a beautiful card addressed to "Joe and Mary" and accompanied by a beautiful plant:
Mary (My favorite customer),
Thank you for being a wonderful customer and a friend to us all! You have made my life so much brighter. Every time you come in, I feel the love. I have never been so blessed to have known someone. I was not raised in a religious home and I don't go to church on a regular basis. There have been times in my life that made me question my beliefs. You have impacted my life in so many ways I can't express. Ever since you told me about Pastor Joe I've started praying every night. I pray for Joe and your family. I am constantly checking the updates on Joe. The progress that he has made is AWESOME! You have brought so much light love and happiness into my life.
You don't know me, but I feel like I know you from the updates and what Mary has shared with me. My name is Sam and I work (at a restaurant) where she goes to. I have been watching the videos of your sermons online and have faith that one day I will be blessed to see them in person. I read the updates almost everyday. You have come so far, and I pray that you heal quickly. You have a beautiful family and church. Oh, and happy very belated 30th wedding anniversary! Sending you lots of love and prayers.
The next morning, as I went to open up our nurseries, I found another card on my desk from out of state. It also was addressed inside just the same, Dear Pastor Esposito and Dear Mary on the other side. Some words stuck out to me… to my husband it said, "It would seem right now you and your family's witness and testimony include the wonderful people who are caring for you in the nursing center, but it goes way beyond that throughout the world as we read updates and pray for you all…"
That weekend, I felt the Holy Spirit remind me "My church is fine. There are others I need for your lives to touch right now." And again as I often feel the Holy Spirit speak to me, "Be patient, wait—I am DOING SOMETHING you can't always see (thank the Lord at moments like this he gives me glimpses). Trust me."
Thank you so much for reading our updates and for your prayer that encourages our hearts!
Thank you once again for your prayer. I wanted to give a short update including some great blessings and prayer requests.
We have received approval for the brain injury rehab facility. We are very excited about this! It is costly and not covered by insurance, but the letter stated that we've received some funding for the services. I don't know yet how much of the funding is being provided. We begin August 1st. I'm a bit nervous while excited. It's outpatient, so I'd transport him in the medical van God provided through the graciousness of one of our deacons who sacrificed one of the vans from his medical transport business. They've scheduled him for 4 days per week for 4 hours a day. This may be above his ability, but they will work to fit the schedule to his needs over the first 8-week trial period.
Our family got brave and took my husband to a nearby park for Father's Day. He seemed to really enjoy being out with everyone. It went very well. He also got to ride in the van with a couple of the grandchildren. We took the respiratory equipment along, but didn't need to use it. (Thank the Lord! They were supposed to put me through training before allowing off-campus pass, and I hadn't had it yet. The park was so nearby I wasn't worried.) Thank the Lord! We never would have imagined being with him in that setting again–God's good! The road is so long, but we've come so far when we think about it.
I requested some speech therapy again, and it's beginning today. The therapist certainly noticed a difference in his speech from the past. She commented how very clear his speech is when he talked. She is going to work on strengthening, which is what I had hoped and prayed for. I am theorizing that it will also help with his capping and trying to eliminate the trach. She will see him in the standing frame on Tuesdays and Thursdays for an undetermined time. I really wanted some outside help, as I work with him daily in so many areas and I'm telling him what to do all day! I think another voice will be good. She worked with him on answering more quickly yesterday, and I saw a difference right away. We also discussed the device on which his eyes could type and communicate. She felt at this level he doesn't need it, and it's more profitable to work with his speech. Praise the Lord for bringing him to a place she feels that way.
Please pray for his ongoing allergy we can't figure out. He has swelling in the eyes and lips and hives. Also he's being treated for a lot of swelling right now in the feet and hands.
Thank you for your encouragement and prayer.
Thank you once again for your continual prayer and encouragement. Folks tell me, "I am still praying" or "I pray every day for your husband and family." It sure means a lot to us.
When I think about an update, sometimes it seems the prayer requests are the same and the progress seems of no large significance to report. On the other hand, I realize every small step is really very significant; and not going backward is in a sense a step forward. Though the prayer requests are the same, we are progressing bit by bit in each. For that we thank the Lord.
We are still praying for the removal of the trach. We continue to cap daily in the morning, and as long as possible. His oxygen is good. Praise the Lord! Thank God he now rarely struggles when it's initially put on. He seems to have relearned breathing completely through the mouth. Yet he still can't fully clear his own throat or cough the mucus all the way up, so still needs some suctioning to prevent pneumonia. Patiently we keep capping as long as possible; and after suctioning is needed, we start over again! Pray specifically for ability to intentionally cough and clear and for physical strength for the muscles as well as "know how." The pulmonologist was positive and said Pastor Esposito's getting stronger, but l it could take months. It was good to hear positive!
I continue to feed Pastor daily–maybe six to eight little bitty bites. He's also been able to lift the spoon to his mouth if I put it in his hand. We mix eating with "voice lessons" as I have to see a good swallow and hear a clear, "aaah" with no gurgle for him to have the next bite. I requested exercises from the facility speech therapist to strengthen swallow and voice. We do, "eeee" held to the count of 3 and repeated, or done at a low tone and rising. Another is "ahh, ahhh, ahhh." He is doing VERY well with these, and the voice is getting stronger and stronger. When he's tired and can't take another bite, and there's a temptation to be discouraged – I often take a breath myself, and say, "Joe, do you realize that swallowing at all is a miracle? Amen!" And he says, "Amen."
As for talking, Pastor has capability but still lacks strength. He doesn't talk a lot throughout the day but can when needed. After I'd shaven him, he said, "I've got cream in my eye." Then a few minutes later, "There's something in my mouth." He says, "I need some water" (though he's not supposed to have water by mouth).
Here's a funny example showing Pastor Esposito's ability to think, speak, and show his sense of humor. I asked the activity department for worksheets used to test/strengthen the mind or memory. I wanted to use these to practice his voice. First, comparisons like what is longer a pencil or a yardstick? Which is faster, an airplane or a car? The Next page is categories like add a word in the same category. George, Tom, Henry… he said, "Bob." Spider, ant, wasp… he said, "butterfly." The next page is retention…. a set of words, then "what was the third word," or the word following another. Another is Time Orientation, "What month sometimes has 29 days", "A holiday in January," "If it's 2:00 and your friend says he'll be there in 3 hours, what time will it be?" The next is Spatial Orientation, like are you lying down or sitting, in a bed or on a chair, is a table nearby, are you wearing glasses? The last page is knowledge of one's self like "Your full name, birth place, phone number?" I had randomly chosen 3-4 per page, and he answered with about 98%. (Word retention took repetition.) Then, I asked him from the last page if he has a spouse, "yes"… your spouse's name..."Mary". Then, "How old is your spouse?" He grinned, and with his cute teasing expression he used in the past, he said, "REAL OLD!" I laughed and told him that if I'm real old he's really old-er… again he smiled.
I am still awaiting approval for the brain injury rehab, and praying for God to open all the doors. It's in the Lord's hands.
We continue to work on movement, and see baby steps there as well. We have tried new things like a PVC arch on which you move the rings side to side. He tracks with his eyes, states the color, and holds and releases the ring after pushing it to the other side. I help him, but he is definitely pushing and making effort. I think doing all this at once stretches him.
May 24th was our 30th wedding anniversary. I praise the Lord for giving us so many great years together, and for the blessings we've experienced. I asked him where he wants me to take him for our anniversary, and right away he said, "fishing." I asked how we could work out fishing in a wheel chair, and he told me, "the pier." I am working that out. Here is a letter I wrote for him.
On our 30th anniversary, I want to say thank you. Thank you for 30 wonderful years. Thank you for choosing me (the most unlikely candidate) above a multitude of girls at the college that would have loved to have been your wife (it seemed all the girls liked Joe Esposito). Thank you for helping me finish college while expecting and delivering our first child. Thank you for seeking God's will for us and following it – through the ups and the downs, the laughter and tears….and never quitting when things were hard (your own father being murdered a month before our wedding, over 20 x-gangsters living with us, our garage being blown up, the LB gang truce held at our church, stabbing in our apartment building, financial testing, the stories could fill a book ). Thank you for your vision and determination and consistency. Thank you for walking so closely to God, for being the best Christian I've ever known. Thank you for your unwavering stand for right, at church and home…for never changing what you believe. Thank you for making time for your family regularly though you were the busiest man I've ever known. Thank you for keeping our marriage priority– for 28 years of Monday night dates (including the USA Today), for all the walks-holding my hand. Thank you for your love for children, and desire to have a large quiver full - and for allowing me to mother 8 wonderful children, (10 had the Lord not wanted two of them in Heaven). Thank you for being the best Dad in the whole world, loving our children individually and making time for them, all while leading a large growing church, mission teams around the world, a Bible college, and a huge building program, and continually dreaming to do more. Thank you for your patience with me – oh how often I needed your patience….you have always been so organized and possessed an excellent spirit in every way, while you know those weren't natural for me. Thank you for helping us to grow together. Thank you for all the times we were able to be a shoulder for each other to cry on during the hard times of our lives….tough times in growing a church from the ground up, times when our hearts broke because folks we loved turned away from God, times when each of us lost loved ones – too many times in terrible and unexpected ways and times. Like the night I received the call of the second suicide in my family in one holiday season– you didn't say a word – just put your arm on my shoulder and let me cry….and I knew you cared. Thank you for your multi-generational vision, your dreams and plans for the future, and for acting upon those dreams to see them begin to come to pass (and for the benefits our family and church reap today). Thank you for making sure the fire in the hearts of our family never died – that we fed it and helped it grow – whether a missions video together, encouraging a reading night, etc. Thank you for letting Pacific Baptist Church be not only the church you started and pastored, but for making it our whole life, as we served together as an entire family- even on vacations where we all sat around dreaming of what God could do more through His church and planning to do our part. Thank you for instilling those dreams into the hearts of our children.
Thank you for the way you encourage me even now, putting up with all I make you do on a daily basis, for giving every bit of effort you can until you're exhausted and fall asleep. (You must think I am crazy sometimes! Especially when I take your hands and arms and make you song lead, tell you to do silly things like blowing and sticking out your tongue, etc.) Thank you for the little expressions probably only I see but which are clear to me, even if only the raise of an eyebrow, saying that you agree with me – that God is still good, and we'll still love and trust Him though we can't understand or see what lies ahead. For the times I talk out loud and "preach to you" exactly what I myself need to keep trusting and believing, and you give me a nod of agreement or expression that says, "that's right". I probably need that more than a lift of the leg or to hear the sound of your voice (though those have excited me so much).
I always said publically that I didn't know of a better marriage. It's still true. I really have been blessed and of course it's God's mercy and grace toward me, but thank you for being the best husband a lady could ever dream of.
I love you!
Thank you so very much for your continued prayer! Please forgive me for waiting so long to update the site. There are a lot of blessings to share, and for which to praise the Lord. I will include prayer requests in each point.
• All paperwork has been turned in for the outpatient brain injury rehab. I received acknowledgement but not acceptance yet. Please pray for God to make going to this brain injury rehab possible.
• I can't remember if I mentioned hives and swelling, his hives went on for three months covering most of his body; and then the swelling of his lips and face began. The skin treatment nurse had tried many treatments to no avail. A doctor couldn't be found by the facility, so I found an allergy specialist up the road and made a cash payment appointment and pushed him there one drizzly day. Several good things came of this. Two medications were removed, and we began to decrease the tube feeding as my husband has gained a lot of weight. He began a daily very mild antihistamine for a three-month trial. Many labs were done. Auto immune diseases and the like were ruled out. Though no conclusions were found; Praise the Lord he's hive free! Pray that the hives stay away.
• For a few weeks, we stopped all juice and food as we experimented with the hives. We've resumed both. Please pray for his swallow muscles to get stronger, so he's not so tired by eating and is able to eat more in quantity and eventually more than puree.
• Capping is in full force hopefully moving toward the eventual goal of removing the trach. This is a really big step. Praise the Lord! For now, we are putting it on in the morning as long as possible. His oxygen level tends to be good. The thing that causes it to be removed for a break or him to be suctioned is that he's working so hard to breath or is too tired to properly process mucus. Again, pray for strength of the throat muscles and energy in general.
Pray for wisdom and direction, too. There are a lot of viewpoints on the pros and cons of eliminating the trach in these circumstances. Some RTs feel like, "Go for it – you won't know if you don't try." Others say, "You don't want to do this and end up in respiratory distress and be sent by 911 to redo the surgery." The speech therapist doesn't think it should come out (at least until way down the road) as he's eating and it's somewhat of a safeguard incase food goes into the lungs/airway. Some articles say the things that keep you from getting rid of the trach like lack of cough, not being able to swallow well, etc. just MAY be better once it's removed. But there's no guarantee it will. And considering the muscles have been 2 ½ years since normal use, we don't know what actual ability may or may not be there.
• The EMS training is complete. Now it's just up to me to do it. I planned to do it every Saturday, but I was out of town this past Saturday. Pray God will use this to help awaken Pastor's muscles/nerves.
I wanted to share a poem that was sent to me which has been an encouragement to me. It so clearly states so many blessings in the WAIT when God doesn't choose to answer prayer with a red sea miracle. There are so many truths in the poem, especially the one from Job which we learn to not only hear of God with the hearing of the ear but for our eye to see Who He really is.
IN HIS TIME – THE WAIT POEM
Desperately, helplessly, longingly, I cried; Quietly, patiently, lovingly, God replied. I pled and I wept for a clue to my fate . . . And the Master so gently said, "Wait."
"Wait? you say wait?" my indignant reply. "Lord, I need answers, I need to know why! Is your hand shortened? Or have you not heard? By faith I have asked, and I'm claiming your Word.
"My future and all to which I relate Hangs in the balance, and you tell me to wait? I'm needing a 'yes', a goahead sign, Or even a 'no' to which I can resign.
"You promised, dear Lord, that if we believe, We need but to ask, and we shall receive. And Lord I've been asking, and this is my cry: I'm weary of asking! I need a reply."
Then quietly, softly, I learned of my fate, As my Master replied again, "Wait." So I slumped in my chair, defeated and taut, And grumbled to God, "So, I'm waiting for what?"
He seemed then to kneel, and His eyes met with mine . . . and He tenderly said, "I could give you a sign. I could shake the heavens and darken the sun. I could raise the dead and cause mountains to run.
"I could give all you seek and pleased you would be. You'd have what you want, but you wouldn't know Me. You'd not know the depth of my love for each saint. You'd not know the power that I give to the faint.
"You'd not learn to see through clouds of despair; You'd not learn to trust just by knowing I'm there. You'd not know the joy of resting in Me When darkness and silence are all you can see.
"You'd never experience the fullness of love When the peace of My spirit descends like a dove. You would know that I give, and I save, for a start, But you'd not know the depth of the beat of My heart.
"The glow of my comfort late into the night, The faith that I give when you walk without sight. The depth that's beyond getting just what you ask From an infinite God who makes what you have last.
"You'd never know, should your pain quickly flee, What it means that My grace is sufficient for thee. Yes, your dearest dreams overnight could come true, But, oh, the loss, if you missed what I'm doing in you.
"So, be silent, my child, and in time you will see That the greatest of gifts is to truly know me. And though oft My answers seem terribly late, My most precious answer of all is still . . . Wait."
God has been so good to continue to give Pastor progress. As in life, it's so easy to focus on the moment or be discouraged with the struggles and difficulties along the way and not look at the big picture of all that God has done and is doing. It really is miraculous how far Pastor has come. It's amazing how much he can move now, and that it's more and more as months go by. It's amazing how much more he communicates and tries to speak. His capabilities of remembering and thinking amaze me. (His short term memory is definitely improving since the last update—thank you for praying.) For all of this and so much more, we praise the LORD!
Last week, Pastor saw the physiatrist. Praise the Lord she was very excited and surprised at his progress. She kept using the word "promising." She also wrote an order for two things: to evaluate and work on capping (more officially) and to begin electronic stimulation on the muscles. The facility said they are not able to do this due to time limitations, and that only way it might be done is if I had the device and was trained to do it. "Coincidentally" one of our assistant pastor's wives had just given me one. I had NOT mentioned this to the physiatrist, so it seems to be from the Lord. Today, they did a basic evaluation and gave me general instructions. Next session we are supposed to try it. I had the thought this evening to call his neurologist just to be sure it's safe. Please pray that if this is God's will that He will use it to improve Pastor's movement.
This week we've had Karrina, the neuro-muscular therapist, come daily. She is the lady we've mentioned whom we pay to come as God provides. She too was very surprised at the progress. (She said had I not told her about the December setbacks, she never would have known since he'd progressed so much from when she'd last seen him.) Every time she's come in the past, we've seen specific improvement.
A few weeks ago I visited a nonprofit (though not free) outpatient brain injury rehab not too far away. I had toured it before, but wanted to ask two questions: Would they accept a patient with the limitations my husband has and whether they believed it would be profitable? I appreciated the gentleman who started it and has done this for so many years taking the time to sit and talk with me. He was very positive and said that he was certain my husband would improve if he attended. That was quite encouraging. So the next step would be to get a doctor's order that I could take my husband out weekly, which is being requested. For this to happen, I will also need to be trained in his respiratory care. Next, I need to send in an application. I have completed all of the very extensive application except his doctor's portion. I wasn't sure that it could be done or approved on this end, but it seems to be going well. Please pray that if God's will, He will make the way. I also ran the thoughts of moving facilities or going home by him. He said keep him where he is—good facilities are hard to find. On going home, he said, "He's not ready and you're not ready." He basically said to be patient. He gave me a lecture as well. "Do what you can, get help with what you can't do, and what you can't get help with let it fall by the wayside." I'll translate the latter to be leave it in God's hands. That was good for me because there is so much that I want to do for Pastor… more that realistically I can do. On the other hand, It's God who has brought us this far, He gets all the glory. We're only instruments, so we'll trust His guidance going forward as in the past.
A few "little blessings":
Praise God for all—and thank you for your prayer!
It's time for an update. I was thinking since it's just about Valentine's Day that I'd share related blessings. This May we will have been married for 30 years. That's a lot of Valentines. When I was 12 or 13, my pastor's wife told me that God already knew who I'd marry one day and was preparing us (and created me to be HIS helpmeet, though to most of the world and even many Christians that's a forgotten concept) for each other and that I should begin praying for him. At the time, I lived (as my husband would say it) next to the river and in the corn fields in Illinois. He lived far away in Long Beach, CA. God would take us to the same Bible college (though I was heading to another college before God redirected me), where we'd meet and marry. It's amazing to think that just as when I was a young girl and God knew and planned our lives together God knew also we'd be where we are today. I often try to speak to Pastor about what God's plan and purpose might be for the future. Of course we don't know, only God knows; and so we trust Him. I thank God for the privilege it's been to be Mrs. Joe Esposito.
Recently, I put on the speaking valve as I do each morning when I arrive. He always replies with "Good Morning" even before I put on the valve. But often I say we need to practice talking and I tell him to repeat vowel sounds or words or ask him questions, like what's your favorite food to which he replies, "lasagna" or your favorite restaurant which fluctuates between Sophy's (Thai) and Pho (Vietnamese). That particular day I said, "We need to talk." Then in a sort of silly way I said, "So what do you want to say to me?" And I just waited. He replied, "I love you." He made my day!
Pastor continues to eat little bits of pureed food at a time, which I feed him around lunch time every day. Yesterday it was mashed potatoes and pie. He chose the pie first, then the potatoes which must have been very salty to his sensitive taste buds because he whispered, "I need water."
We continue capping a little per day. He has good days and bad days. A staff member in the therapy section here asked me what the plan was with the capping trials. I said, "There's not really a plan…I think it's just me pushing and trying."
We are back off of therapy, but continue our previous plan of working on various areas. The RNA's assist twice per week with standing him up, and I bring the exercise bike for the arms and hands and we do rolling the ball, etc. while standing.
We were supposed to have an appointment with the physiatrist, and I wanted to speak to her about some different ideas and see what areas should be priority. However due to an insurance problem it was canceled. Though I was disappointed initially, I hope to find another soon, and pray it is God's leading to where he wants us to go. I am sure there is a purpose.
As far as strength I believe we've just about gotten back to where we were before the hospitalization. I was really excited last week when for the first time since December I had him pull up a bit in his chair with the PVC pipe, and he can still lean right and lean left when asked. At first when he stood in the standing frame he totally leaned forward onto the table as if he'd lost all upper trunk ability he had gained previously. Thank you for praying for strength and energy, and praise the Lord for renewing strength little by little. Someone sent me a quote that said something to the effect that much more of our Christian life is on the level of walking without fainting than mounting up with eagle's wings.
Here are a few specific prayer requests:
Thank you for praying. This morning my brother in law sent a picture from a Bible of a junior high girl in Cambodia. It's the 4th of July picture of my husband and me in the front inside cover of her Bible with the words written in Cambodian "Please get better Pastor". I wept. Thank you all so much for praying! God does hear, and God is working His will.
Thank you for reading our update once again, and for your faithful prayer. I read recently that the greatest gift that can be given is to pray for someone.
So much has happened since the last update, I am not sure where to start. It's been a bit of a roller coaster ride, but as always God has been very good to us while growing our patience and trust in Himself. The month of December was one of those one steps back my husband used to preach about, "Two steps forward, one step back" but keeping on keeping on… going forward. I told Pastor, we've taken the step back, now let's take the two forward.
We went from all the issues at the hospital described in prior updates, to returning to the sub-acute center, to having pressure sores on both heals (most likely from being more immobile because of the surgery), to being told that there was clotting/blockage that might require a stent in the leg, to having the stomach flu (Pastor and the entire family), and more. It's been a very eventful month. Thank God the pressure sores seem to be healing. A second ultrasound showed everything okay in the legs, so praise the Lord for that!
Pastor has made it back to the uncuffed trach he had before. He now does well again with the PMV (speaking valve) during the day. And we resumed capping trials this past week. Praise God! He did amazingly well with the capping. He breathed easily and even went to sleep for two hours with it on. I'd say he has done better with capping than before he went into the hospital. This is such a blessing to me. Seeing him in ICU on a respirator again (though precautionary and to give his lungs a rest) and returning to see him struggle with the PMV was discouraging. It seemed more like 10 steps backward. I wondered how long it would take to regain what was lost. Praise the Lord! It's been quick.
Pastor has continued with eating trials, so the speech therapist wanted to decide whether to allow him "pudding thick" food for "oral gratification" with the family feeding 5-10 bites a few times per week or discontinue altogether. She was not sure, so she had another therapist come and test him. He DID have blue dye from the lungs when he tested him. (My son said the therapist fed him large bites and quickly. We usually go very slowly and cautiously waiting for a swallow and making sure it's clear before the next bite.) That therapist said that it's a risk. So the therapist here said that basically I needed to decide if I want to continue for "gratification" and "quality of life," at the risk that he might aspirate at some point and may get pneumonia (which in her words is the downfall of many patients – some who never really recover). The alternative is not to take the risk and decide not to feed him. I asked her if I said no, would that mean that I'm resigning to never eating because not using it most likely means losing it. Eventually, I asked her what she'd do if it were her own husband and she weren't the speech therapist. She said she'd probably do it cautiously and stop at any time there's any seeming congestion in the lungs. Then she explained more briefly to Pastor, who had awaken at that point. She asked, "Do you want to not risk it, or do you want to go for it?" He delayed a bit, then whispered, "go for it."
The underlying hesitancy in the area of both the trach being capped and feeding is that though Pastor swallows, he doesn't seem to be able to cough intentionally when asked. That is a marker to them that he's a candidate for capping or food. He also aspirated in the initial test on all levels but thick. Again, by not doing either most likely he'll lose it all. It seems a bit of a vicious cycle. Pray specifically for the strengthening of the muscles and vocal chords, that he will become efficient in coughing and clearing his throat on purpose, and absence of aspiration into the lungs while we cautiously feed him and hope it helps him become stronger.
We are thankful physical and occupational therapy have been working with Pastor the last two weeks since returning from the hospital since he re-qualifies upon re-admittance (as long as he reaches goals set for him and improves functionally). It's been a little sad because he became weak and has been unable to respond to some things that he was very easily doing before the hospital admittance. Some of the things we were working on and becoming efficient at (like sitting forward in the chair) are on hold because of 3 months of limitations in movement placed due to the surgery. He has reached some goals. We're working on his using his left hand to wipe his mouth, pull a brush up to his hair, bring a toothbrush to his mouth. He did it for me to video when the therapist wasn't there. Pray for strength and energy as well as quick healing.
Also, please pray as I am seriously considering testing Pastor for the eye tracking device again. Pray for his ability and that insurance will cover much of the cost. It works in such a way that he types using his eyes, and the machine speaks for him. When we did it in the past, his eyes' ability muscularly to maintain focus on a letter long enough was too weak. You could see his eye go to the letter J for example when asked to spell his name, but it would quickly flutter away before the machine could capture it. I'd been praying about whether God wanted me to revisit some areas like that I have filed away in a folder for a future date. Something I read made me want to retry. It was about a man who was disabled completely but still had a strong mind and would dictate his thoughts. When he could no longer speak, he used a device that captured a slight touch of the fingertips. He spoke of utilizing what is NOT disabled and looking at what you do have rather than what you don't. It was good for my perspective, and I read it to my husband. It also caused me to revisit this idea. (A year ago or so I read of a Jewish rabbi who used blinks of his eyes to communicate his sermons to his wife who wrote them down and they were read aloud.) I don't know what God has in store for us, but please pray about this device.
More than anything, please pray the Great Physician will give us a great miracle that all may see and know and understand that the hand of the Lord hath done this. I walked into one of our nursery classes this morning which doubles as a school classroom. On the wall were the school children's prayer requests. I read, "Pastor come home." It made me weep. (I dreamt last night he was home and well.) I so appreciate that so many folks continue to pray. I've said it before. It means the world to us. Thank you!
Thank you for all of your prayer over the last couple weeks. It has meant so much to us. Here are some updates on various prayer requests:
• Lungs—the lungs are much clearer, thank the Lord. Pastor is having occasional suctioning. I was happy the speech therapist came back in today to work with him today. He definitely needs prayer to get back where he was. He has been in a cuffed trach for over two weeks and hasn't had his speaking valve on or been capped. He struggled some today, and only swallowed two of five bite/drinks of the thickened water. He was having a bit of a hard time with the breathing through the PMV. They say each different way is a totally different sensation, besides he had progressed to one where he would get more air through. Please pray that we can get back to the previous level and progress from there.
• Heart—The cardiologist said he has a murmur (We already knew that.), but that it was insignificant. He said, "He doesn't need me."
• Hives and swelling—Thank the Lord the allergic reaction symptoms are gone. Praise God! (He was very miserable. I had never seen such hives and swelling before.)
• Surgery—Surgery went well. It will take three months to completely heal. He is limited somewhat in movement, but there is still much he can do. Physical Therapy came in today, and Pastor Esposito sat up on the side of the bed and did very well. He just tired very quickly. The therapist was VERY surprised at the strength in his hand. He still is requesting some pain medication but is very obviously experiencing much less pain. Pray he quickly regains strength and, again, gets back where he was and can go forward.
God has been good through two challenging weeks. Upon arriving back to Huntington Beach, I asked Pastor, "I know we don't prefer to be in any hospital at all, but is it sort of good to be back in your spot over here so we can get back to getting well?" He agreed. I prefer not to publically post our thoughts on God leading us in the decision of going back to Huntington Beach, but feel free to ask me in person if you would like. I have been given MANY opinions from far sides of the spectrum. For now, I believe that we are where we should be (not without MUCH struggle and prayer and contemplation).
Thank you again. We pray that you have a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS.
Thank you for continuing to pray for Pastor Esposito. We are still in the hospital. It's been one thing after another and up and down; however; this morning as I talked with him, he smiled and was very attentive. He told the surgeon he was "fine." Overall, he is seeming to be much better.
Thank you for all of your prayer!
Thank you for praying for Pastor's surgery Tuesday. The doctor said surgery went well. I hadn't mentioned in the update what type of surgery it was. Once some of the other symptoms lessened and Pastor seemed more aware, I questioned him to find out why he seemed in such pain. He communicated that he had pain near his hip. Upon X-raying, it was found that he had a fracture across the top part of his femur. It was replaced during surgery with a prosthetic.
He has been so miserable and in pain over the past 8 days, and I pray that today he begins to have some relief. Also, pray that everything becomes stable once again in all areas.
Please pray for the following:
Thank you so much for your prayer. It means the world to us. Thank the Lord we can rest in the fact that He is still in control. One early morning this week, as I awoke thinking about my husband's pain, I just broke down crying like a baby under my cover. I felt so sad for his pain, and frustrated at the setbacks it surely has caused for him. Of course the questions of how and why this could have happened kept popping up in my mind as well. I turned on the Scripture beside my bed to listen for God's voice through His Word, since I didn't want to get up and let my children see me crying. What God impressed upon my heart and used to comfort me is the fact that not one small detail of this situation is surprising to Him. He knows exactly what is going on, and He's still in control. I can go round and round about what happened and distress. Just as October 3, 2013 when it all began, God holds us in His hand and knows what's happening. What a comfort to rest in that truth! We are in the hand of God.
Please pray for Pastor Esposito as he will be having surgery from 9:00 to 12:00 today.
Thank you once again for praying. Monday Pastor Esposito experienced a seizure. It was Tuesday when we left the subacute center and went to the ER at Long Beach, Memorial. (Not because of the seizure, but because he didn't seem well and had a high heart rate and lower than normal oxygen that the neurologist didn't relate to the seizure.) While in the ER many tests were done. At 11:00 that evening, Pastor was admitted to a room on the 4th floor. Wednesday, he was moved to the ICU to be temporarily placed on a ventilator and for more intense testing. Very early Friday morning he returned to the 4th floor, seemingly improving.
• CT scan of the brain showed some swelling of the ventricle that wasn't previously present.
• Other CT scans and ultrasound showed no clots or blockages elsewhere.
• The stomach became very swollen and the Neurosurgeon believes that to be the cause of the swelling in the brain and the cause of the seizure. The shunt couldn't drain the fluid from the brain to the belly. I can only speculate that the lack of awareness several days was due to that swelling in the brain.
• His stomach was cleared out while in ICU to resolve that problem.
• There was a scope put into the lungs to see why from the first day there was much blood from the lung suctioning. (This bleeding began in ER as far as I know. I hadn't been told of any bleeding the night before.) No answer can be given as to why or what specifically was bleeding, but we have been assured that nothing is presently bleeding. The pulmonologist said most likely it was from an infection. It is now only old blood. The suctioning has gotten better. Blood count does not indicate any present bleeding either.
• The first couple days he breathed rapidly, his heart rate was high, his blood oxygen level was low, and he looked distressed and miserable. Being on the ventilator for 24 hours seemed to give his lungs a rest. When they took it off he breathed normally once again without a struggle (I'm not a doctor, but maybe continuing to suction out the blood helped too!). He's still on a high amount of oxygen, but the doctor said to wait til after the weekend to lower it back down.
• It's uncertain what infection was causing fever alongside of these other symptoms. MRSA was negative. Other scans and ultrasound showed no other clots or blockages. General flu/influenza was negative. Other cultures haven't come back yet. Nevertheless, from the start they said the neurosurgeon told them to go ahead and start antibiotics. He's been on three different types. As of last night he still had a low grade fever.
• OVERALL, he is more aware. He is responding a bit again a bit but is super sleepy. He has done the little things they ask like squeeze a hand, wiggle your toes, or open your eyes. (ON a positive note, he couldn't do any of those two years ago when we left Memorial!) He also worked some with the therapist who came to check up on him; However, he seems to experience a lot of pain in his left leg, cringing greatly in his body with any movement. They are checking on that.
• It has been a trying week, but we're encouraged at the improvement and thank the Lord for it.
Thank you again for continuing to pray.
I just wanted to take a moment to update everyone who has read the update and is praying and waiting. Yesterday on the fourth floor, we waited until afternoon to hear anything we could. First, the neurosurgeon came and explained all the negative possibilities. He said he could take fluid from the shunt to see if it's working properly, but that could also open up opportunity for infection (though I wasn't given another option). I asked if he'd seen the CT scan or shunt X-rays which he hadn't. He went and viewed the X-rays and then took the fluid from the shunt. He said it looks clear but that could be deceiving, so sent it to the lab. Then he noticed Pastor's stomach was very distended. He said that although he's a brain surgeon it would make sense that they should find out what's going on in the stomach. He said very likely the shunt may not be able to drain at the stomach because of it. There is some swelling already in the brain that he didn't see previously. He continues to be suctioned from the lungs and it is still bloody. He was breathing shallowly and seemed to have a hard time with it. He looked in general discomfort and was not very alert (Though he did squeeze everyone's hands and wiggle the toes when asked.). They called the rapid response team and moved him to the ICU. They did an ultrasound of the stomach and legs last night. Now again, just waiting for results. They started treating the lungs as if pneumonia, though again the culture results aren't back yet. Fever comes and goes. Heart rate is better but not normal. 91 degrees is way better than 119 degrees. They chose to put him back on the respirator for a while so he doesn't have to work so hard and to let him rest. He is presently resting well, and his demeanor seems better than yesterday.
Today, they will do a scope to see where the bleeding is coming from in the lungs. The doctro who just left the room said that potentially it is from harsh suctioning. They will probably go ahead and take the ventilator off as well today. A good point is that the blood count doesn't indicate any heavy bleeding.
Romans 8:28 is still true. At some "level one" stage in our lives Romans 8:28 means that "I've chosen to love and serve God with my life, and so life is great, and the blessings are wonderful. Things are working out good." (It is and they are!) Then somewhere in the valley when "good" is a bit cloudy, the verse changes meanings to a new level in our hearts. We realize that we love and serve Him with our lives, and He loves us enough to allow us things that aren't what we'd call good but are for good. They mold and make us, and prayerfully bring God glory and encourage others along the way. Some days we walk through the clouds with the hope of the rainbow that the for good is out there somewhere. We walk in trust by faith that's not seen. Then God has another level for Romans 8:28 to be learned. It's that I've chosen to love and serve God with my life, and life IS great. His blessings are still wonderful. So many things are still good in spite of the clouds if I look. Like my beautiful baby granddaughter with the sweetest Chinese eyes and rosy cheeks born simultaneously with my husband's seizure. Who could miss such a wonderful blessing? Yet we can be so tempted by not opening our eyes to both what is good and for good. God wants us to see the rainbow IN the clouds.
Thank you again for your prayer for God's good and glory. (Of course we'll take Pastor's getting well as soon as possible too. ☺)
We continue to praise the Lord for all of His goodness toward us. I hope you were able to read the Thanksgiving update.
We have an immediate prayer request today. Two days ago Pastor Esposito had a seizure (at the exact time my daughter-in-law was giving birth to our granddaughter). Again, the seizure was just before I'd intended on asking the Neurologist at this week's appointment to wean him off of the seizure medication (of course I was sad to see him that way and also disappointed, but trust that God knows what He is doing). They said he'd be sleepy following the seizure and I left him with my son-in-law that afternoon and evening and went to my two teenage boys' basketball games, to see the new baby, and to congratulate my son and daughter-in-law. The next morning, I went to the church office for a bit to do a couple of things and was running late. I called and asked how Pastor was, and I was told he was fine and that he slept fine. Once I arrived I could see that he was not fine. He was mostly non-responsive to me cognitively (and he's been doing quite a bit of trying to speak and answer and even ask questions). The head nurse said that he was probably just tired, but it didn't seem like he was just tired. Then I noticed he was red and his breathing was fast, so I used my own pulse-ox I keep in the room to find that his oxygen was low, and that his heart rate was a little more than double what it normally is. I told the RT who turned the oxygen up fully and it rose to 95 and held there (He usually runs 98-99). His heart rate is usually in upper 60's and sometimes 70's. It was 119. RT told the head nurse which said the same thing (that he was probably trying to recoup from the seizure the day before). I waited a while, but he was definitely not just tired. His eyes weren't right either. I called his neurologist's office to see if they'd say it was normal and give me peace of mind. He said that everything should stabilize after a seizure and that if it didn't then they should take him out to the hospital, so I requested that (about that time his RN for the day said he might need to go by 911 because of the heart rate). Around 1:30 yesterday we came to the hospital. They admitted him around 11:00 after doing many tests. After that he started needing frequent suctioning, and it was quite bloody. Other than the fact something is definitely wrong with the lungs (and they have had him on breathing treatment and continue to suction and have put him on a diuretic to clear them), they have been giving something for the heart rate, which has dropped some to around 105. X-rays were done of the shunt, and the neurosurgeon will come today and take some fluid to test it. We are waiting on all other tests.
Please pray for Pastor, and also that God's will is done and He glorified continuously.
Thank you for your prayer.
Happy Thanksgiving! We wanted to take a moment before the day's over to thank you for your faithful, continued prayer over the last almost 26 months. God has used your prayer to encourage us, and we praise Him for you! Thank you for continuing to come to the website to read the updates. It sure does mean a lot to our family.
We'd have to write a book to list all the things for which we thank God. He's been so good, through the ups and downs, the easy and the hard times. In each we've seen His hand. Today, I played quite a few thank you songs for my husband. We always had a repertoire of songs of thanks we liked to sing as a family when we were all together. It started when my husband and I traveled on deputation and the two of us would sing in the car as we drove, "Thank you Lord for Your Blessings on Me." We didn't know all the right words, so made up applicable ones. Today, as I played, "I Have Been Blessed," my husband lipped the words for a bit. I said, "God has been good, amen?" To which he whispered, "Amen."
Thank you for praying about speech therapy and the swallow test. The swallow test has been done. He was given water thickened with gelatin of different thickness. It had something in it that could be seen by x-ray as he swallowed. (I videoed it – looks like a skeleton with glasses swallowing!) When it got thinner, he clearly aspirated. But praise the Lord he did well with the thickest level, which is considered puree. So the only thing approved to safely have is puree. The speech therapist has been little by little giving him applesauce, mashed potatoes, and yogurt. He has worked up to about fifteen small spoons. (It takes a lot of energy.) I asked yesterday if I could bring pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving for practice. Then at lunch we were surprised to have her bring a Thanksgiving meal including pureed turkey, mashed potatoes, and green beans. I brought the pie. HE ATE HIS FIRST REAL FOOD MEAL IN ABOUT 26 MONTHS! And he did very well getting up to about 20 bites. He'd have kept trying; but I could tell he was exhausted, so told him two more bites of pie, and you better get a nap before the children come to see you. What a great Thanksgiving blessing! Now as he continues on he should get a stronger swallow and be able, prayerfully, in the future to re-do the test so that he could pass other stages of the test.
Another blessing of the day is that when I got there this morning, I asked Pastor if he remembered what holiday today is. At first he said "New Year's." (Imagine lying in a hospital bed for two years you wouldn't have much of a sense of time and days.) I told him to think of pumpkin pie. Then he smiled and I thought he was teasing me when he said New Year's because I am constantly testing him with questions. I walked across the room to see what another patient who shares the room was motioning for and heard my husband say loud and clear, "It's Thanksgiving." That was the loudest I've heard him speak, and so that was really encouraging.
Please keep praying
Thank you for your continued prayer. There are three parts to this update. 1) I want to share an answer to prayer and a special request. 2) I want to try to answer the question of when Pastor may be able to go home. 3) I want to share part of a letter from a specialist in the Neuro-rehab field which was an encouragement.
First, Praise the Lord! The prayer for speech therapy has been answered. Pastor has been receiving speech therapy three times per week for the last few weeks. The therapist has been working on two main things: helping him to get voice out and swallowing. Today, he was able to receive 15 small spoons of gelatin thickened lemon water. Soon, an appointment will be made for him to go to the hospital for a swallow test to see if he is swallowing properly and to make sure nothing is going into the lungs. Thick liquid will be dyed, and an x-ray will show where it goes when he swallows. Then the liquid given in the test will gradually be thinned to see what he can tolerate. The therapist asked me what my goal was. She said to aim for meals is too much and beyond his energy level. I told her I just want to get to the next step, whatever that is. She asked if I just want him to be able to sip water when he asks, or do I want puree like apple sauce. I responded the latter would be nice. Then she said, "Joe, what is your goal? To drink some water or juice?" to which he immediately whispered, "juice." She continued to say, "or apple sauce" to which he whispered, "yogurt." That was funny. She said that for sure if he wants yogurt the swallow test will be important because it could cause infection like pneumonia in the lungs. Please pray God continues to strengthen his swallow and that he is able to pass the test.
Secondly, here are some thoughts on taking Pastor home. Of coure our family has wanted Pastor home from day one. We miss him more than words can explain. Home feels empty without his presence. Never does a week pass without my struggling over this. Leaving him daily is heart wrenching. With all that said, here are a few thoughts on when we would consider taking him home.
*First and foremost, when it seems that his going home would be the best thing for his health and progress
*When doctors agree it's what is best for him
*When wise counsel encourages us to do so
*When those closest to him are in agreement that it's best for him
*When we have the realistic capability of doing so (house-wise, financially, practically, medically, etc.)
*And of course it goes without saying, when God gives us peace about it
Pastor has made miraculous and continual progress (though sometimes two steps forward and one step backward) in the present setting.
Medically, he is in place where medical issues that could become setbacks are able to be quickly addressed. When an ultrasound was needed recently, a call was made and before the day was over it was done. When there's any suspicion of pneumonia which is so common for bed ridden patients, an x-ray can be done immediately. Doctors, pulmonologists, respiratory therapists, a daily skin care nurse, other therapists when approved are there onsite. When he needs to go offsite for appointments, there is transportation arranged and an RT travels along.
Practically, we believe for now, Pastor is in a place to receive the most intensive help. If I were to take him home today and decide to carry the entire physical care for Pastor alone (which I would most gladly spend the rest of my life doing for him), doing the work of the nurse who cares several times per day for feeding through the tube and medicines, and the CNA's who does the bathing and changing and turning and hoyer lifting into the wheel chair, and the RNA's who help with splints and help stand him twice per week and watch him through the nights, and if I were to take on care for the tracheotomy and lung care, being responsible for scheduling appointments and transporting him instead of much of it being done in house then there is little chance I would be able to spend the many daily hours presently spent doing those things that neurologically and physically Lord willing may potentially help him improve functionally. Insurances are very limited in giving therapy, etc., so by necessity we have become his therapists; and here we are able to almost solely focus on doing so.
There are many days when I just want to take my husband home despite any rationale. Many days, I am impatient and tired and overwhelmed with going to Huntington Beach seven days per week or being away from home for close to 9 hours per day or broken hearted to kiss him good bye, or I feel a need to be closer to home for family and home's sake, or I am just plain lonely and miss him; but then I pray and don't feel peace, and none of our adult children feel it is the best thing for him right now. No medical staff has said it's time. I mentioned taking my husband home to a Pastor recently who told me that before I start making a decision like that to make sure that the folks I am getting my counsel from have been there before. I mentioned in an update before that the man across the hall wanted to go home. He was able to communicate better, was younger, and his family remodeled their house completely and did so. This lady warned me that if I was considering the same not to make a quick decision that it was very difficult (though how hard it is for me isn't my main concern). Her son developed pneumonia which they didn't have the expertise to catch. His lung collapsed. He ended up back there after being in the hospital and ultimately he passed away. Another man told me of his regrets of taking his wife home after she'd made progress and she passed away.
I think it's perhaps easy for the situation to be confused with someone who is fragile and ill who is at the point of hospice and being taken home with hospice care to die comfortably at home surrounded by family. The purpose is entirely different. There are two sides to Pastor's care: 1) keeping him healthy (the focus of the facility) and 2) encouraging his progress (what we pray and work for). So we wait often very impatiently for the day Pastor will go home. We believe he will but can't let our impatience be the determining factor. By the way, one family was visiting and asked the this question. Then they said to Pastor, "Don't you want to go home?" Immediately, with a sincere look on his face and some squint of the eyes he shook his head no. I believe he has enough understanding to know it's not best at this point.
Lastly, many have asked what the state Pastor is in is considered. This is the first time anyone actually has given me a clear description of my husband's state. Here is a portion of the e-mail I received from a specialist in the field of brain rehabilitation (not the technical terminology):
First, I am so happy to read about the Pastor's progress. All praise to our Heavenly Father! Pastor is definitely a locked-in syndrome and not minimally conscious or slow-to-recover. His brain is intact but the brain stem, below, has been impaired. The "vegetative" functions controlled by the brainstem include swallowing, breathing, vision and eye movement, control of lip, tongue muscles and control of air to produce sound for speaking. The fact that he is able to speak some words is fabulous. The weakness of his speaking is related to poor air control. There are exercises that a speech pathologist can do to help strengthening the force of air from the diaphragm. At this point, as you describe his abilities, he is far ahead of most locked-in patients. Strengthening the limbs and grasp with the hands can be exercised by gradually adding small weights and working the hand by squeezing something like silly putty or a swishy ball. Maybe you are already doing this and other things. With an intact brain, his awareness, memory, following instructions, etc. are able to function. Absolutely, he is fully aware.
With a good cough I would hope that they are aggressive about working on swallow and capping to achieve decannulation and an oral diet. In time, it will happen.
Insurance ! How I wish our patients like the Pastor had abundant funds. We can do so much with them. Yes, he will fatigue and need to rest but pick up again after a while. This builds endurance. I would have him up daily in a tilt-in-space wheelchair. A little at a time to build endurance. These wheelchairs can also have electric controls so he can drive himself around. Definitely keep him in touch with his church family. Visitations not only help him but his parishioners are encouraged to see him responding to them.
Our program (CNS) now has four facilities (3 California and 1 in Texas). We have focused on neurologic rehab for acquired and traumatic brain injury for over 35 years. It was founded in 1980 by Mark Ashley, who became a speech pathologist after his older brother, Steve, suffered a brainstem aneurysm and was a locked-in. This happened while he was in the Navy... back in the 1970s. All they did was put him in a military hospital with total care. He could do nothing for himself and could not speak. He could blink "yes" and "no." But he was very aware of everything. In those days, neurologic rehab did not exist. It was believed that no recovery of any kind was possible. The family finally brought him home and set up the living room as a hospital room. Mark cared for his brother while attending school at So. Illinois University. After earning a Masters in Speech Pathology at age 19, he moved to Bakersfield, CA to work as a speech pathologist. While in Illinois he and a classmate worked part-time in a facility caring for brain injured patients with severe behavior problems. Mark developed a protocol to address cognitive and behavioral issues after brain injury. In 1980, he and his partner took out a loan and took a step of faith: they opened the first post-acute brain injury rehab facility in the U.S. No one... I mean NO ONE... did that kind of rehab in those days. We had always been told that "you can't fix a hole in the head!"
I was working as a physical therapist in a private practice in Bakersfield. They called one day and said "this is what we are going to do and we think that you're crazy enough to join us!!!" I did and have watched that tiny little program grow and gain favor with many insurance carriers because we did great work. 35 years later, CNS is four clinics strong and is known internationally for innovations brain injury rehab. We are currently publishing the 4th Edition of our neurologic rehab text. The Bakersfield facility has just opened a beautiful state-of-the-art clinic. We are very busy in all clinics... still doing what we were told can't be done.
Steve was my first patient in those early days. You can't rehab a locked-in... many doctors told me... but we did. It was long and laborious, especially for Steve, but he gained speech, could go anywhere in his electric wheelchair, gained function in his right hand, typed on a computer, fed himself... so on. He did not gain as much physical function because of 9 years lying helpless in a bed before CNS. The VA finally coughed up funds to allow Steven to purchase a van and hired a caretaker to take him everywhere. He rented a house. The caretaker got him up, dressed him, and Steve "helped" fix breakfast and pack a lunch for the day. They got in the van and took care of business. Steve was able to manage his affairs. He was in control. Steve had taught me so much about fighting for the possibilities by stretching what knowledge you have and making it go much farther. I became a better therapist because of him. Now, at 75, I'm trying to retire but our field just keeps reaching for the next edge. Neuro-imaging technology has exploded and is now showing us the brain actually "at work." This new technology helps us know when a particular treatment is working or not. We can see the brain metabolizing oxygen and glucose and reorganize itself.... it's called neuroplasticity. While I no longer practice therapy... old body, you know... I am writing the research and developing protocol manuals to teach all therapists how to do it. Part of my job includes responding to questions... like yours about the Pastor... from all over the world. I am very blessed.
A side note from Pastor's family on her comment about visits: We would love for Pastor to have more visitors. Please just text one of the family members to be sure he is not out for an appointment, in the gym, etc. and perhaps we can have him dressed and up in the chair ready for the visit. I think at some point I miscommunicated that we discouraged visits. In the beginning while he was in ICU, the hospital requested us to limit visits as they were overwhelmed and not able to care for him properly due to the large amount of visitors. And, there was a point later where the physiatrist felt too many visitors had overwhelmed him and set him back a bit and she said just to limit the number per day and length of each visit.
Once again, thank you so much for your prayer and encouragement to us.
Please pray for the following:
As we approach the second year anniversary of the day Pastor Esposito went into the hospital, I wanted to take a few moments to reflect and to praise the Lord who has been very good to us and to thank so many who have prayed and who have been such an encouragement to us. Then I'd also like to do my best to give everyone a very thorough picture of how Pastor is presently doing.
Of course, I would be dishonest to pretend that this day doesn't come with many mixed emotions. A couple nights ago, I was at my husband's desk in our room listening on our church website to some of his preaching. One of my boys stood behind me for a bit, and asked, "Mom, when will Dad be all the way better?" Talk about breaking your heart. How does one answer that question to her teenage son who misses his dad? I wish I knew the answer, but this isn't like getting your appendix out and the doctor saying take it easy for two weeks and don't lift anything heavy for 6 weeks, then you will be back to normal after 8 weeks. The day we left Memorial Hospital ICU after 40 days, the doctor said, "Now... you wait... 6 months, 6 years, we don't know." So here we are waiting, praying, and doing all that we can to encourage healing. GOD HAS BROUGHT US A VERY LONG WAY from the first night when my brother-in-law asked what the chance was of waking from the coma and the doctor just looking downward or the 10% he'd have any functionality at all if he did wake up. We do PRAISE THE LORD. We trust HIM that He is working His will, His way, and in His time.
Let me take a few moments to try to give a clear picture of Pastor's present status. For all of these miracles, we thank and praise God:
· He is "awake" in the sense he's no longer in a coma. He wakes and he sleeps though his energy is very limited, and he needs lots of sleep throughout the day.
· Anyone who spends much time just talking with Pastor believes his mind is all there. Further confirmation is that he knows things like letters, numbers, can read words, can add math facts if you ask him. He can follow any command you ask him that he has physical capability of doing like "lift your right pinky finger," "turn your head to the left," "wiggle your left toes," and "hold or drop the ball."
· He seems to have a very good memory. For example, one of our ladies asked, "Do you remember me Pastor?" And he whispered her name. A young girl he hadn't seen in a long while came, and when I asked him her name, he mouthed it. The children sat around talking about times Pastor saw them from his upstairs office window and whistled for them and they knew they were in trouble for many funny memories like that he smiles. He indicates he does not remember the day he went to the hospital, and I suppose that is a good thing.
· He is regaining movement little by little. He has pretty good use of his left arm and hand. He has a very good grip and pull especially for tug of war with the rubber rope. He has some ability on the left leg. He can participate when you exercise it. Today, he was moving it up and down quickly with me. He recently became able to lift the left leg upward while sitting in the wheelchair. He can also move the toes, foot, ankle on the left while in bed or the chair. His right side is doing better though still pretty weak. He can move specific fingers on the right. He can try to clap it with the left. This week he gave a good push and pull motion on the right leg. Well, it was noticeable that he was trying. He can move the toes on that side, and tries the foot and you see a bit of a jerk as he tries. You can feel a push. He can move his head up and down, left and right (though he avoids the right side). When standing in the standing frame if told to stand up straight, he puts effort into straightening up his upper body. He can hold onto a pipe and help lean his body forward in the chair. While in the chair, he can clearly "lean left" and "lean right". We are working at twisting his trunk. He can roll the ball around on the table, squeeze it, and grasp and release it. Though all of these take great effort, he is doing it and gradually improving.<\p>
· He has capable vision. I wanted to share this in its own update a week or so ago, but didn't. I made an appointment for an eye specialist at Western University. For a good hour Pastor very intently participated in the exam. At first the Doctor asked me how he could respond to let her know that he could see at various distances. I said to ask if he could and let him nod or shake his head. So she asked him if he could see the first letter, and with an audible voice he told her the name of the letter and so on he went. He was getting tired trying to produce voice, so as they were now numbers, he held up his hand with appropriate number of fingers (without our asking). She had him do thumbs up if he could see with his peripheral vision field, had him focus at a distance, and open his eyes, keep them closed, etc. He did everything perfectly. It was pretty exciting! She used various types of equipment, tests, etc. She determined that he needed both distance and reading glasses which we knew already, that he has astigmatism, and that he lacks vision field on the left side of both eyes which explains why he most often turns his head to the side to move his vision field to the center. She prescribed glasses that hopefully will help, and said to continue working on his vision as we have been doing (tracking, focus, etc.).
· Pastor still has a feeding tube. They'd considered doing a swallowing test, but that was postponed until further capping of the trach was tried. We are still going around with insurance to get approval for the natural feeding, but I do bring him vegetable juice daily which he has three times per day.
· Pastor still has the trach. There was no explanation why he'd do well with the PMV, but struggle with the cap. So we put it on hold until an ENT saw him. It was determined there is no blockage, so we have just begun trying again. Last night he wore it for two whole hours with Xinyi. But then this morning we made it only a few minutes before he was struggling and his oxygen was going down. Please pray for complete removal of the trach. It seems that he could make so much more progress if we could take it out.
· Pastor tries to speak. Sometimes he just lips. Sometimes it's a clear whisper. Sometimes a faint, scruffy voice comes out. He will usually respond if you ask a question expecting a verbal answer in one of the ways above. I try to ask him, "Can you answer with your mouth please?" (rather than a nod, etc.) He tries talking on his own occasionally when he really wants to communicate something. Many times those are the times I can't understand as he's intensely trying but using a whole sentence. I ask him a few times, then feel bad and begin guessing. Please pray for his speech, and that he will be able to have speech therapy soon. I requested it this week, and they are checking the insurance allowance then will evaluate. On a funny note:
o One night, Joseph asked, "Dad, do you mind if I go get a couple of tacos?" And Pastor shook his head. Joseph said, "Wait, did I ask that correctly? Is it ok if I leave and go get a couple of tacos?" "Can you just say yes or no"? Then Pastor turned toward him and said in his little voice, "It's fine!"
o The other morning I needed to walk to the room from the patio to get something and planned to leave him there. He was a bit rumbly in his throat, and so I asked him would he feel better if I took off the PMV. He replied in his little voice, "go ahead."
o One night Dan said that my husband told him clearly to take off the valve.
· Pastor's overall general health has been very good.
For every step, every little miracle, we praise the Lord. And thank you all for walking through this trial with us.
We want to end by thanking God for the journey He's chosen for us, and for all the blessings we've experienced because of it and the lessons learned.
· Had we not experienced the loneliness of this trial, we would not have had the opportunity for God to show his love through wonderful people like you, just when we need it most.
· Had we not experienced the greatest weakness of our lives, we wouldn't have been able to experience the great truth that HIS strength is made perfect in our weakness.
· Had we not had times that seemed we couldn't have taken another step we'd not have experienced God's great sustaining grace. (And to look back and see how God has graciously held our hand through two years and brought us so far is amazing.)
· Had we not experienced the pain of this trial we'd never have come to a place where we can truly understand the pain of others.
· And most of all, had we not come to a place where we really didn't understand, we'd not have began the search to know God in a deeper way than ever before, nor been in a place where His Word truly is more than our necessary bread.
It's truly a GOOD, HARD place to be.
P.S. I was ending there, then God once again showed me the blessing in the tears that which makes it all worthwhile at the end of the day. Remember the struggle above to answer my son about when Dad will be better? Last night my three youngest were at their Dad's spending an evening with him so I could come home and do some things. When I returned to pick them up, my son Ben told me this story. Our two boys, 12 and 15 were outside on the facility patio studying their Bible Quiz chapters together for a while. A lady who apparently is very bitter at God walked by and saw the Bible and asked if their Dad is the pastor who's there. She said she doesn't even believe in a God who would do something like this to good people. She asked my boys why they are not bitter at God. TO make a long story short, the boys shared their faith in a loving God Who knows what He is doing and is trustworthy even when things don't make sense. Somewhere along the way 6 people ended up in a conversation with the boys, and four ladies weeping, one uncontrollably. The one who'd said she didn't even believe in God couldn't contain herself, but said something along the lines of "Maybe God does work in mysterious ways. Keep believing in HIM," as she had to walk away. You know, this is what we always longed and prayed for in our children, all we really ever wanted to have a strong love for and faith in Him. PRAISE GOD FOR THE WORK HE'S DOING IN AND THROUGH US WHETHER IT HURTS OR NOT. IT'S WORTH IT.
Where do I begin to update everyone on the blessings God's given since our last update? In our last update I mentioned that we wanted to work out my husband being able to leave the facility for a few hours. Though I didn't specifically mention it—what we were trying to do is get my husband to Long Beach to our church for my daughter's wedding, and to "walk" her down the aisle. It took some work, but God allowed us to work out all the details one by one. On August 29, my husband was dressed in his suit and transported to Pacific Baptist Church by a van belonging to a gentleman whose wife had been in the facility (his wife died the evening of the day I'd met him and we'd tried out the van to see if our wheelchair would fit, but he graciously drove my husband for the wedding still). HVHCC was very kind to allow one of the Respiratory Therapists to bring along equipment and travel to the church and stay with my husband before, during, and after the wedding, giving us peace of mind. As all attention was on the flower girls, I brought my husband into the back of the church. The wedding march began and the doors open for our beautiful bride to enter. She took a few steps and took her Dad's right hand and down the aisle we went. Though I spoke "her father and I" when asked who gives the bride away, my husband gave the thumbs up. My husband then viewed the entire ceremony alertly from a spot we reserved nearest the door. Of course there were many tears; but great rejoicing. The last song Bruce and Sarah chose to be sung was "He's Been Faithful." How true and how appropriate are the words to that song.
I thought my husband would be exhausted, but when I returned to the facility later, I found him wide awake. And the next day I thought the same, but he was not any more tired than any other day. I believe it was good for him to be able to be back at the church. My son Joseph and the RT took him for a tour inside the new building. Joseph said he was looking all around. That building was a large part of my husband's dream to see a multigenerational vision fulfilled of training our children, grandchildren, and many, many others to serve God here, through church planting, and abroad specifically in Asia.
Recently, my brother-in-law asked if I'd jot down a few lessons learned from the trial in our lives, so I thought I'd share them here It only scratches the surface of all God's done and is doing in all of our lives and in our church. Just a few basic lessons perhaps I've mentioned in past updates.
The first lesson God taught me was His strength in my weakness. I'd always looked at "strong" people who faced tremendous trials and wondered if I'd be that strong in their shoes. I doubted I while longing for that type of walk with the Lord that would allow me to do so if perhaps a trial of that magnitude came to my life. When God graciously allowed the storm to hit my life so that I could begin to know Him in such a way, I found out the secret truth of strength. Now people looked at me and said, "You are so strong." But the truth is, you find yourself tossed in the storm, utterly helpless and weaker than you ever imagined. You cry out to HIM and you find His strength is made perfect in your weakness. While people outwardly think it's you, it's 100% HIM because your strength is all gone.
Next natural question everyone asks is what about Romans 8:28. I've learned that "all things work together for good" hinges on the second half of the verse… "to them that love God and are called according to HIS purpose." Do I really love Him more than anything in this world? Do I love HIM enough to trust what HE knows is good even when it looks bad through my eyes? Do I love HIM enough to sacrifice my will for HIS, believing by faith that His will IS GOOD? And do I REALLY want what will fulfill His purpose, no matter what that means, not what is easy and comfortable that which fulfills HIS eternal purpose, not my temporal pleasure. So in spite of my pain, my tears, my longings, and my fears if I truly love and trust my loving Heavenly Father, I can rest assured in the greatest storm that He IS working everything for good and according to HIS purpose.
I've learned that I need God's Word more than anything on earth. The Scripture passages that have been dearest to me have been Job, Psalms, Hebrews, and the story of the crucifixion and resurrection. David, the man after God's own heart, and Job, praised by God HIMSELF as perfect and upright, enter their own dark valleys. I find these great men experiencing my own feelings, questions, struggles, and they came through victorious, proclaiming God's goodness. Hebrews has been dear as I've seen Christians throughout time that have believed God's promise and lived accordingly. Some received the promises tangibly in their lives, while others seemingly died without "receiving the promise" in this life; but all kept believing in our God and pressing toward the mark whatever the cost, believing His promise though it couldn't be seen. In the Gospels I am amazed to find over and over again in a very personal way, Jesus Himself tempted in all points like as I—touched with the feeling of my infirmity facing much greater suffering than any human—yet enduring for me.
On perhaps a lesser point, God is teaching me patience—not to be in a hurry He isn't (and my husband and I certainly lived life in a hurry). I've learned God is working on His timetable, not mine. He may completely heal my husband here on earth, one day, or maybe not until we receive our new bodies in Heaven; but my impatience accomplishes nothing. (I am not saying that the deep longings don't surface, but He's taught me to stop and refocus and to do what I can do today—to be faithful today and to look forward to eternity.
I also wanted to include some pictures and videos that I thought maybe folks who pray would enjoy seeing including some exercises, wedding, enjoying singing, etc.
Thank you for faithfully praying and encouraging our church and family. It means so much to us.
Praise God for His continued goodness!
Today, I stood by my husband, Pastor Esposito, in what I call our "secret garden." Through the nursing center activity room is a patio with a fountain, trees, plants, birds, etc. I asked him the other day, "Isn't it funny the way we had a life of rushing to and fro, filled with people and now here we are in our own little secret garden? Just you and me?" It is a very peaceful place to be when we stop to appreciate it. This is the place where I take him just about every day, as it is the least used of spaces at Huntington Valley Healthcare Center. (Sometimes folks come to see us and hope the wal.) But today, I was going through our daily routine of chair exercises… sit forward and back using the PVC pipe, tilt at the waste right then left, play tug of war with a rubber jump rope, grasp and release the ball, wipe the table with a paper towel, and so forth. It takes from morning until lunch time with a couple of ten minute naps for him in between. Recently he has been showing some improvement with his weaker right hand. As I asked him to wipe the table toward his stomach, he did very well. My mind flashed back coming up on two years when all we wanted was to see a finger move, or a toe wiggle. With tears I asked him, "Do you realize what a miracle it is that you moved your hand like that?" God has brought us so very far, and I realize that without Him all our effort would be in vain.
I have wanted to write an update the last couple weeks to share this exciting blessing. Recently, I took Pastor out on the front sidewalk under a tree because day every area was full of patients and family members, and I am always looking for a quiet spot. I was having a sincere talk with him, and he was listening and looking at me intently. I couldn't tell you the topic, as I think the excitement caused me to forget… but I said to him, "AMEN?" ….as if to ask him, "don't you agree?" And with what I call a Donald Duck voice he responded, "Amen." Then I said, "That was so good! Can you say 'Mary' with voice like that too?" And he did. Then I asked him if I could call the children and let him say, "Hi" to them. I first called Sarah at the church office and told her that Daddy wanted to tell her something, and I asked him to say "Hi, Sarah" with voice; and he did. She said that Joanna was there too, and he said, "Hi, Jojo." Then they said my daughter-in-law was there too, and he said, "Hi, Cindy." Then my husband's previous secretary Jaz wanted a "Hi" too, so he said, "Hi, Jaz." I called the others, and for each he said "Hi" with their names. (I was unable to reach the two younger boys at the time.) When I called my daughter-in-law Jennifer, and after he'd said, "Hi, Jen" and "Hi, Mary" to my granddaughter, Jen said, "My parents are here too." Both of her parents were on the phone screen via FaceTime and I asked, "Can you say 'Hi, Jane'" to which he replied, "Hi Jane and Robert." That was really neat. We sort of wore him out saying hi to everyone, but we all were very excited. Then he mostly slept for the next several days. Every step of progress wears him out. I didn't ask him for a while, but now am back to practicing using the voice. Vowels are supposed to be easier, so I will tell him to take a deep breath, open his mouth, and repeat the long A sound after me, then E, then I, then O, then U. A couple of days ago, I cheated and had him say A, E, I, then I said, "love", U. He didn't say it, but just looked at me. Then the next round, after "I," he didn't speak but lipped, "love U." He still has his sense of humor! He often smiles big when our staff men tell him things that are funny.
Thank you for praying for all the progress God has brought. We appreciate it so much, and it encourages our hearts. Recently someone came to visit Pastor whom we hadn't seen in a long time as he travels most of the time as a truck driver. He said that somewhere along the way he got the idea to pray for Pastor every time he finds a penny. He said he finds lots of pennies.
Please pray for Pastor:
Please pray for wisdom for the family in various decisions and for God's leading and direction in all areas. Never before did this poem I'd see on journals, etc. make sense as it has since October 3, 2013:
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
…Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His Will…
-- Reinhold Niebuhr
We are so grateful and encouraged by the continued prayers of many folks. My daughter Susanna sent me a picture of a handwritten prayer list by a young lady in Cambodia, and at the top it said, "Pastor Joe." (My husband used to tell the Khmer folks when we'd visit in the early days that his name was Joe, and he'd say, the alphabet in the Khmer language until he got to the 8th letter I think, which is pronounced "Joe." Esposito was way too difficult.) How encouraging this was to us!
We have continued to do with Pastor the various exercises mentioned in the last update. He is doing much better with each of them. Please keep praying for increased strength and coordination. Sometimes when he has the energy, and I ask him to use a wiping motion on the table with his hand and arm on a towel, he does it quickly as if to say, "Mary I got this already." His right hand is improving but is still very slow; but he does it!
We had been practicing holding a pen, and Pastor would hold it and move it a bit. Recently we were able to have a notary come and ask him if he agreed to give his wife power of attorney over financial matters. (Without this we have had some road blocks in different areas.) He gave her the thumbs up, and surprised us at the "signature" he wrote. It wasn't clear that it was his signature, but he was clearly trying to write a signature on the line. It wasn't just a mark, though a mark would have been legally sufficient. So that was neat and we are very thankful! It made us laugh, in a fun way, because we only expected a small mark. He did it as if really trying to write his name.
I am not sure if I mentioned it but when Pastor is in the wheel chair, we use a PVC pipe and get him to hold tightly (he does very well) and I help pull him forward so that he is sitting upright. Recently, I have asked him to lean his waist right and left, and he is able to do this on his own. It's exciting to see some trunk control and to continue to see his understanding of what we are asking him to do. He also does very well with "tug of war" using a rubber jump rope, especially when he uses both hands together. He can almost hold on against me if I hold one-handed and he two-handed.
Something else I have begun doing is asking Pastor questions with two choices for answers. For example, he often he takes a nap after the whole ordeal of getting dressed and Hoyer lifted into the chair. One day I asked him, "Do you want to work (exercises, etc.) or do you want a nap first?" "Can you answer with your mouth – nap or work?" He said, "nap", not with voice, but with breath. Later I asked him, "Sermon (listen to a sermon) or work". He chose work. Then later I asked, "sermon or nap" and he said, "sermon." Now there are times when he just looks tiredly, and doesn't respond at all, but it's exciting to see him be able to respond more little by little, and we praise the Lord for this. He also whispered to me clearly a need the other day using a complete sentence. I was so excited and sad at the same time….excited he was communicating and I understanding, but I wept because I felt so helpless and unable to help him in what he was saying. Today he tried a phrase about 8 times, and I still didn't get it. Please pray for his clarity, and my understanding.
I spent a little time talking to one of the respiratory therapists the other day about capping the trach. One thing he mentioned is that my husband doesn't have the capability to cough or clear his throat intentionally, which really should be a sign of being really ready. Please pray that he will increase in the ability to do so. I don't know if it's brain capacity, or discomfort and not wanting to do so, or a lack of physical ability to do so. He does cough when something gets into the air way – but it's not intentional but reflexive. We have done some capping trials. Two days ago he did 15 minutes, though I cheated for him and pulled it off momentarily to let him grasp an easier breath. Yesterday, he was struggling too much, so we stopped. Today his oxygen tank ran out for a while (my fault for not asking for a new one) and his oxygen level and heart rate were a bit too low, so I didn't ask for capping.
There are two different things we are checking into and about which we are praying. Please pray with us for God's wisdom. I only want what God wants and what will be best for my husband's recovery. He has continued to improve little by little under the present circumstances, so I don't want to make any rash decisions in impatience.
The first consideration is the potential of moving my husband to a place closer to home. (The facility I am considering doesn't presently have availability, but I check it out once in a while. It is on the block of our church.) Some of the benefits would be being closer to home, nearer to church and family, and MAYBE potential to take him in his wheel chair home or to church for short times. There are also "cons" to the change which I often weigh in my mind and about which we are praying. The second is that – the possibility of being able to take Pastor out of the facility on occasion – usually they give patients up to 4 hour passes….but not so often in the subacute department. I have asked for the doctor's consult…and will also see the physiatrist later this month and ask her opinion as well. In the mean time, I would have to have my own mode of transporting him by wheel chair, requiring a vehicle with electrical power (unless we just want to take the risk of not being able to suction during transport in case needed.) I have been told that wheelchair transport companies won't take the liability of trach patients, and of course I wouldn't want to transport him by ambulance on a gurney because of very high cost and impracticality. I would also want/need some medical equipment available at home and some handicapped improvements if I took him that direction to Long Beach occasionally.
We were so thankful Bro. Laudio and Mrs. Carina Flores came to visit Pastor on 4th of July. Carina sang some of Pastor's favorite songs. One song she sang was, "God's Been Good in My Life." When she came to the place where the song is written, "Though I've had my share of hard times, I wouldn't change them if I could for through it all, God's been good," Pastor lifted his hand way up right there, as in, an obvious "AMEN." That meant a lot to me. I have often wondered what he must be thinking, a pastor of 25 years, confined to a hospital bed unable to communicate. If I know my husband, He's enjoying sweet fellowship with God, praying for the rest of us to continue to faithfully trust the Lord, and waiting patiently to see what the future holds. But sometimes when I have had my own moments of struggle, I wonder if he has those moments as well.
Many times I have heard this same song sung, but often the singers have changed the words to sing, "though I've had my share of hard times, by my side He's always stood." (Which IS true, and much easier to sing!) I thought a lot about this. Not long ago, I stood and wept with a young college student whose mom had just gone to heaven what we from our earthly perspective would call prematurely. She told me she was singing that song. She said, "But Mrs. Mary, I couldn't sing that part, 'I wouldn't change them if I could'". I told her, "Not yet – but that's ok." I do believe God wants to lead us to the place where we can sing the song as written, though. But it's a process getting there. Time passes and if we will open our eyes wide enough, we can begin to see some blessings through the tears. If we'll open our heart, we'll get to know our God better; and through the pain we will be able to say those words and mean them. I can't say I always want to sing the words as written, but I hope and pray that I will more and more. I suppose I am not talking about the song "God's Been Good," but the song of my life – to desire it as God has written it, without wishing He'd change His plan. A Scripture verse I have meditated much on recently is Romans 8:18, "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." I have repeated in my mind "not worthy to be compared." My "light affliction which is but for a moment" is not worthy to be compared to what He did for me or what He wants to do in or through me.
Thank you so much once again for your care and prayer.
Thank you once again for praying so long and so faithfully for Pastor Esposito, our church, and our family. As I have said many times, it means more to us than you could ever know.
We had an eventful May. It was my husband's and my 29th anniversary. I reached my 50th birthday. Our daughter Joanna graduated from high school on the 29th. The graduation was a bit emotional; while at the same time helped us to thank God once again for the trial. Joanna did an awesome job giving the salutatorian speech, and I saw such maturity and growth in her. We used the phone to allow her to address her dad as he watched the graduation. Many tears… but through the tears I praise God for the strength and faith He is growing in our children's lives because of the trial. It was one of those glimpses at God's purpose I mentioned in the last update. (You can see her speech here.).
Since the last prayer update, Pastor had both physical and occupational therapy, for now both have ended. Praise the Lord for allowing him to have those weeks of therapy. He has made some progress through it; and has had the opportunity to demonstrate some abilities we may not have thought of working on. It has also helped to loosen him up some more, enabling better movement. I requested prayer that the standing frame would continue, and thankfully the order has been written for the standing frame twice weekly. Thank you for praying. I took lots of notes from therapy and got lots of new ideas even watching others there, and have many new ways to work with Pastor. We also were given printouts including new exercises to work on various areas as well. Here are some examples of things on which we've worked:
• Rolling a ball back and forth on the table using either hand
• Tapping on the matching card with his index finger
• Moving arms/hands back and forth in a wiping motion on the table
• Standing and exercising head and neck – moving them at request
• Pulling pegs out from a peg board
• Filling in a circle with a marker, trying to write (he switched the pen from the left stronger hand to his right hand on his own.)
• Many new exercises like turning the hand at the wrist in rotating motion, etc. (for the first time he reached up with a tissue to wipe his own mouth during one of the sessions)
• Many more, all of which we will continue to do on our own. Then later they will check his progress on all of these.
Each and every task is very slow and obviously takes a lot of thought and effort. Many times there is a long delay, then a response. Often he does what is requested once or twice then stops. Pray for Pastor's strength and energy. Yesterday, it was neat just that he picked up his right arm to try to cover a sneeze. For some time he has been doing so with his left arm. Today he did the wiping motion much better with the right arm. Sometimes (without specific permission) we walk Pastor to a nearby pharmacy. Sunday I did so, and it was the first time that he seemed to be alert enough or have movement enough to sort of look around a bit on his own instead of me getting his attention and asking him to look at this or that.
Praise the Lord for continued improvement—step by step, each of which is a big miracle in itself. Please keep praying God will wake up what needs to be awakened, and connect what needs to be connected between his body and brain. We still need a miracle from the Great Physician. Also, please pray again for the capping and eventual removal of the trach. I haven't really pushed for it since so much effort was going into therapy. Most likely it will be done when I personally ask for it to be done. Now that therapy has ended, and the schedule is more in my hands. I plan to ask daily after he's back in bed from the chair, and done with most of the various new exercises and activities. I know both will tire him greatly. Please pray that he adjusts quickly to capping and he won't be too stressed, that the muscles needed to draw in the air through his mouth will gain strength to work again, and that the brain will tell them to do so.
This morning it was very neat that Pastor was trying to speak with his voice again. It was sad though that he's trying so hard, and I am not getting it. I called the RT in and he said it again several times, but we couldn't understand. "I want…", but we couldn't get the last word. Please pray he keeps trying without being discouraged, and that we can get what he wants to say. And of course pray for his strength and ability to speak more forcefully and distinctly.
Thank you once again.
The Esposito Family
NEW PRAISE REPORTS AND PRAYER REQUESTS. Recently, we had a care plan meeting at the nursing center with social services department from the facility, the head of nursing, one of the respiratory therapists, the pulmonologist, who also is a general doctor, and me. This meeting is a review of all of his recent health records, medications, etc. and an opportunity to share concerns or ask questions. I am going take some time to give some details from the meeting, since many folks ask related questions – so if you prefer to skip to the brief praise/prayer requests at the end of the update, please feel free to do so.
I requested the anti-seizure medication to be reduced to what it was prior to his being ill a couple weeks ago and having had what potentially was a seizure. The doctor is not comfortable with reducing it for now, so it will stay as is. He did tell me that it's the most mild of seizure medications, and that it has very few side effects and should not affect alertness. He said if I feel it does to bring it back up. But, he's actually been more alert recently.
We talked about potentially giving him some herbal supplements for the endocrine system. A nutritionist recommended it, and coincidentally I attended a brain injury conference session on the same topic (from a medicinal, not herbal perspective). The point was that following brain injury, most often there are deficiencies of the hormones produced by various parts of the endocrine system. Theoretically, if these could be detected and corrected it should improve function in areas controlled by these. The doctor said that he is not comfortable with the herbal supplements. He said that there is no way to measure how much you are administering, nor to know if a complication arises (seizure for instance) whether it is from the particular herbal remedy (which he did say act as drugs) because it's not testable. He said at least he can test blood levels for what he is presently giving him and adjust as needed. What he did say is that he is very willing to test for these deficiencies and try correct them with standard medicine.
We talked with the doctor about a "capping" trial. (This is removing the trach at the outer neck, and putting a red cap on the opening.) He approved, and said we are in the best place to try this. Capping causes the patient to breathe both in and out the mouth. (Pastor hasn't drawn breath in through his mouth in 19 months.) Then the RT's place oxygen in the nose and monitor oxygen level and heart rate. I'd had the discussion a few days earlier with other staff. The discussion was very round about, and I had really struggled with it that day. At first the conversation was that typically they don't experiment – they do it when they feel the patient is ready and they do a three day trial and then remove the trach. They also don't usually do it for patients who still are suctioned (Pastor is about three times per day they said – though maybe once a day or 3 times a week I might ask for it during the day). They also said that he still has secretions. I asked why – and they said because the trach is a foreign object. So it's really a cycle of the trach producing it, causing suctioning, and the danger of those secretions causing pneumonia or air blockage in a patient whose muscles aren't yet strong enough if the trach isn't there to suction. Then in the middle of the conversation, they said that maybe it can't hurt anything to try and if he doesn't do well they just stop. I asked if they could tell me specifically that they think he's ready, not just it can't hurt to try and that I don't want them to do it only because they think I want it. I went away to think and pray for a bit and had decided not to. When I returned, they enthusiastically agreed that we should try it and convinced me to try. He handled about 20 minutes until his heart rate went up too much. They felt that was a really good first try. They said some patients are obviously unable to handle it right away. When an RT tried it a couple days later, it only lasted a few minutes and he said, "We'll try again." To describe how it looks, it's like he's fighting for air under water. He looks so distressed in his eyes, and he's breathing fast and hard. It's pretty frightening⎯to him, and to me! But the positive is that his oxygen level stayed good. The Speech therapist came in and said that the muscles in the throat required to breathe like that just don't have strength after all this time of unuse (our prayer is that this will help build those muscles). What the doctor said is that we can just try once or twice a day and gradually work up to it. I appreciate this, as it's not standard but they're willing to do it. That's what we did with the PMV valve, and gradually he has come to where he wears it almost all day.
I asked in the meeting what the requirements are to qualify for therapy again. (The therapy that I've referred to in our recent updates is of a different type, and paid for out of pocket.) They said that it is evaluated regularly, and requires improvement (the head of therapy says "functional improvement"). So I read to them the following list of things my husband can do.
• Turn and hold up his head
• Move any finger on either hand at request
• Move his left leg and arm at will
• Is beginning to move his right side more
• Respond yes or no by a nod or shake, thumbs up, or blinks
• Recognize and distinguish letters
• Potentially read – as his eyes go back and forth at the Scripture placed before him
• Laughs appropriately in conversation
• Can squeeze a ball in both hands, wave, try to shake hands
• Hold tightly to a PVC pipe I brought and hold and pull some
• Help with his exercises sometimes
• Bend his arm, open and close both hands at request, move his wrists as asked
• Push back or pull in
• Can move his tongue to the left or right and open and close his mouth intentionally
• He can chew the tooth swab when asked on either side, and swallow
• Blow the party toy
• Lip words
• He tries to get voice out
So the doctor ordered a re-evaluation with physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. The head of physical therapy saw us outside and asked my husband to do this and that and said, "We'll start tomorrow." The speech therapist came in and said it would be more profitable for her to come after doing the capping for a while. The occupational therapist saw him the next day. It was neat. He tried to clap his hands, wipe the table (and that was using his right arm – though he could pull in but not out), and he brought a cloth all the way to his mouth, which was a first without help. They experimented with a pen in his hand, and it seemed he was trying to grasp and move it. They stood him up in the standing frame as well. Our hope is that though therapy typically lasts only 10 days, he will be allowed to continue to stand with the CNA program 2-3 times per week.
Thank you for all of your prayer for standing by us both our faithful people of Pacific Baptist Church, and those who keep updated via this website or posts that others spread around by other means. It has meant the world to us.
I thought that I'd give a quick update for the past week. The neuro-muscular therapist came four days this week. I was extremely encouraged at my husband's alertness and response. He was very "with her" as she asked him to participate in many ways. One way that was encouraging to me was that she asked him to try to shift his weight on the left side where he sat, and it was obvious that he tried. To me this said that he has feeling and the beginning of some control in the trunk of his body. Also, when I took him inside in the chair following the therapy on Friday, I took off the arm of his wheel chair to use as a "rail" and asked him to hold on with both hands (I helped put his hands on) and I told him to help me pull him up into a sitting up position. He held tightly as I pulled and he did sit up on the edge of the wheelchair, not letting go. I would have expected the right hand at least to slip off, but he held on and we did it several times in a row. Another positive was that past times she came, my husband was so exhausted that he'd mostly sleep the rest of the day. This week, he did sleep some; but also had much awake time where we were able to do other things with him still.
Also, I wanted to share just a funny story. One day this past week after I'd just shaved Pastor. I told him, "You look so good! I need to bring a mirror so you can see yourself. People mean it when they say you look younger. On the other hand, I am turning 50 this week! And I am sure looking like it, don't you think?" To which he nicely shook his head no slowly back and forth about 3-4 times. And I laughed and told him he's so nice to me that that was a nice gift!
Thank you for your continued prayer that means so much to us.
It has been a month since the last update. The first couple of the weeks were very uneventful. In fact I must admit I was tempted to be a bit discouraged. I was asked about updates, but didn't feel that I had anything new to report. (Maybe the strong emotions of a son getting married and a daughter going to the mission field, though both good emotions, made my husband need a couple weeks of rest.) Anyway, I was encouraged by a CD that one of our families gave me by the RU Joybell Singers. One song was especially encouraging, "Hold On." One verse reads, "Hold on through the dark times, hold on though the way seems too long. My grace is sufficient for thee…" But what was more encouraging about the CD was that most of the songs sung on the CD refocused my attention on God's goodness and faithfulness, and all He has done for me. I was reminded that God truly has been very good to me.
Now over the last couple weeks, very much has happened. Let me share some of these steps:
Though we do many things to try to "help" Pastor improve, we know that he is in God's hands, and we ask God for His will. We know that any steps forward are from the hand of God, giving him the capability of taking the steps, so we PRAISE HIM for all of these and continue to ask for a miracle.
Thank you so much for praying long, and for continuing to read our updates. You are a blessing to us!
It has been a calm couple weeks following the wedding, fine arts competition for the three younger children, and three of the children going to visit our team in Cambodia. My daughter Susanna who is twenty-two will be staying in Cambodia for a while and serving with the team there. Susanna will be staying with my brother-in-law and his wife and daughter.
Since the last update--praise the Lord--I was able to hear Pastor Esposito's voice! This was the first time for me. It was only once, but he is still trying. He tries to speak and is able to form the words (though he isn't initiating speaking much). Please pray that everything connects together. Pray also for strength/energy. Pray that he doesn't get discouraged. There were a couple weeks where I felt maybe he was discouraged and just seemed tired a lot. Now he seems back to "normal" in trying to progress again little by little.
We are presently in the midst of our building giving campaign. I wanted to share the testimony of God's provision that I was asked to write. At the end I tell of God providing for me to have the neuromuscular therapist come see my husband again. It's not that I couldn't have figured out how to do it some way or another, but I wanted to see God's hand in it. Here is the testimony, which I pray God receives glory from my sharing:
During times like this (building campaign time), I can't help but be emotional. Our building is a vision Pastor Esposito, my husband, believed with all his heart was from God to help further the vision of reaching our Jerusalem, Judea, and the uttermost parts of the world. Bro. Johnny asked me on a couple of occasions, "You don't have to answer this, but did Joe (he called his brother Joe to me) ever one time imply that he thought we shouldn't have gotten into this building program?" And each time I answered, "Never, not once." He believed with all his heart it was a vision from God to reach more people for Christ here and abroad."
Last Saturday, Bro. Meyers did a wonderful job with our Building Kick off, and my heart was burdened again, and I longed to do more to see our building complete. I barely could contain my emotions as he spoke, as in my heart I said to the Lord, "I want to be a part, but I have nothing to give. You will have to as Joe used to say, (I call him Joe to God.) 'give through me.'" I have NOT stopped giving what Pastor and I committed to give weekly before he became ill, and also an increase on that amount last building campaign; but I want to do something more for the cash offering. The truth is I don't have it. The next day, I took Pastor on a walk, and prayed while I pushed him in his chair as we often do. We prayed again that God would provide something I don't have that I can give. I told Pastor about having spent quite a bit for the kids to go to Cambodia, and tires for the car as I'd had a blow out on the freeway a few weeks ago from waiting too long to replace my tires (The tow man was surprised I was able to make it safely to the right shoulder.).
Add to this, the fact that our van was sitting in the driveway in need of much repair. I told Pastor that I was simply going to retire it! Sarah had been driving the day before on the busy 710 freeway to Monterey Park (actually following the building kick off meeting), and we still don't know exactly what happened, but the tire was torn up, wheel well off, electrical wiring was hanging out and exposed as if it had gotten tangled, and the bumper was cracked. Something got caught on something – that's all we know. Praise God He kept Sarah safe, she made it to the left shoulder just before the shoulder ended, and at that moment the car died completely. So this added to my feeling of being unable to give.
That Sunday night after walking and praying with Pastor, Bro. Ros preached about miracles. He made mention of a miracle of a car over a cliff on a youth activity, and I remembered mine and Sarah's close calls recently and God's protection. He IS taking care of us. Somewhere in the sermon, he made mention of God being able to provide a miracle for us to give toward the building. Again, I prayed, telling the Lord I want to give, but don't have anything to give and would need one of those miracles.
That Thursday, Bro. Pineda text me to ask if I would write a building testimony. I felt the same emotion again. I wanted to ask, "Can you wait until I have a testimony to give?" But I knew the right answer was, "Yes, sir." I continued praying.
That afternoon when I got back to LB from Pastor's place I first went to the house. My van was moved forward a bit, but I didn't think too much of it. Then Jen told me that her parents had put tires on the van. Bro. Robert had also reconnected the electrical wires, and found that the engine started fine. (Bro. Jesse also came and gave stitches to my bumper and ordered the part that fits above the tire.) As I pulled out to come over to the finance office, I wept and thanked God for His care and provision. When I arrived at the desk in the office, there was an envelope on the desk. It said, "Brad and Diana Quackenbush". If you receive Bro. Johnny's e-mails, you may remember that Brad was Jeremy and Joshua's little league coach when they were small, and we had been praying for his health. Brad went to heaven recently. Because I had e-mailed Diana both while he was in the hospital and after he went to heaven, I expected to open a thank you letter. In a card, Diana wrote that while praying for me on Tuesday morning, the Lord had laid it on her heart to send me a check. The check was in the amount of $1000. Wow, God used a new widow who was praying for ME. I closed the door and cried and thanked the Lord for showing Himself real to me again and for allowing me to receive my first $1000 for the building offering (after a tithe, of course). (It seems that just at the time I most need to see God's hand in a visible way, He shows Himself real to me.)
God has done so very many miracles from the start of our building to now from the city meeting, to ground breaking though a nationwide economic down turn to where we are today. He has taken us step by step, never once has the building stopped. We have come a long, long way. It hasn't been easy, but it really is HIS BUILDING. I believe if we trust HIM and pray He will give us many more miracles and allow us to finish. I can't wait to see how HE provides more for our family to give this year. My boys already started selling candy over spring break to be able to give while also praying for God to provide in other ways.
Let's all pray that God gives us many miracles so that we can see HIS building built!
P.S. I had also prayed the same week that if God wanted me to have a specific therapy for Pastor that He would provide specifically $300 that was needed so that I would know it was an answer to that prayer. When my son came home from Cambodia Friday, he gave me an envelope with a note from the Keo's written on the outside. When I opened it; it contained exactly 3 $100 bills.
God was showing me one more time that I can trust Him and that He can provide through prayer. "Let your requests be made known unto God" personally and for His building. Don't think that people are often passing me money that is not the case. These were specific answers to prayer, from a God Who wanted to show HIMSELF strong and real to one of His weak children that was just willing to go ahead and ask and to provide for me and for His building.
Thank you once again for your prayer, folks who encourage us through notes, gifts, e-mails. Again, it means a lot to us!
PLEASE KEEP PRAYING FOR A MIRACLE. God is still able, if it be His will, as able today as on the first day. We want only His will and glory whatever that may be. And for now we realize we are exactly where He wants us. This poem recently was an encouragement to me:I asked for strength and God gave me difficulties to make me strong.
Greetings once again. Thank you for your faithful prayer and to the many who have e-mailed, sent cards, etc. You are a great encouragement to our family.
For our son's wedding, we were able to use FaceTime connected to a monitor in the hospital's conference room to allow Pastor to watch the wedding live. My daughter-in-law Jennifer's parents, Robert and Jane Ramirez, graciously stayed with him during the wedding until we were able to get there. After taking pictures and a bit of fellowship, the entire wedding party came to Pastor's place still dressed in wedding clothes, spent some time with him in the activity room, and took a few pictures. He was very alert and seemed to enjoy it. Cindy's parents from China came that day and also earlier in the week. Her dad was assured that he is "there" after spending some time with him.
I think I mentioned previously that we were going to try to purchase an eye tracking device that would allow my husband to communicate with his eyes. It's like typing with the eyes. You could design your own pictures that he can look at and it would capture what he is focusing on and speak for him. We thought that if he could communicate better, we might be able to progress faster. Our church people graciously took up an offering for a tilt in space wheel chair, but the insurance ended up paying for most of it, so we plan to put the money toward this device if it seems he is able to use it. The first day when they came, he was so sleepy he couldn't keep his eyes open—much less track and focus—so we rescheduled. The second time they were able to capture his glance and calibrate his eyes when they had a large circle that moved and he followed it on the screen. However, when we tried to get his focus on the keyboard screen or pictures, his eyes moved too much. In other words, he couldn't keep his eyes still long enough on each letter to capture it. The lady said that the eyes are muscles, and just like the rest of his body, they need to be strengthened. She e-mailed some of the pictures and said we could design our own. She told us to specifically work on staying focused longer in different parts of the vision field. So this has been one thing we have been working on more recently. We have also been using scrabble letter cards to have him look left or right at specific letters, and moving the tv to different spots while playing Baby Einstein type videos where he can focus and track specific objects like a balloon. Please pray for improvement in his ability to not only track, but also maintain still focus by strengthening the muscles in the eyes.
Another thing we have been working on is keeping in the PMV valve for extended times. Some days are good and he keeps it in most of the day. Others he struggles. This morning he was laboring very much while trying to breath through it, so we took it back off. The respiratory therapist said it seemed that he was trying to breathe out the trach instead of out his mouth and nose, but there is only a small amount of space thus the labored breathing. He asked if I wanted to keep trying, and I asked what he thought. He said only if I was staying by his side to watch. When the therapist put the PMW back in, he continued the same. We decided to take it out and try later. He also has seemed the last couple days to have a bit of confusion when trying to project a sound or blow out, which is supposed to strengthen the vocal chords. It seems he is trying to make sound while breathing in rather than out. Please pray that his vocal chords become strong, that he has enough strength to use them, and that he is coordinated physically and mentally to put it all properly together. He has not spoken audibly since we last reported that he did, though he has tried here and there. He lips sometimes, but more often when asked to do so. Yesterday morning was the first time in a bit that he'd tried to say (lip) something to me on his own. (Though I couldn't read it still, which makes me so sad, I just keep telling him not to quit trying.)
Praise God that Pastor's overall health has remained good. We are giving him fresh vegetable juice daily, along with a reduced amount of the formula feeding he was on already. In a few weeks we will do lab work to see how it has made a difference in iron, cholesterol, sugar, etc. levels. I hope it will be like Daniel in the Bible's test!
Please pray for continued wisdom in various decisions. I often consider moving him closer to home, but am not sure I want to risk the move to a completely different place. Pray for continued progress as well. And as always, please pray for God's glory and that we'd have opportunity to be a blessing to others because of this trial. My son Daniel was able to present the gospel to a patient here this past week. I awoke the other night thinking of several folks who had recently passed away here, and of how short life is. Don't pass up any opportunity the Lord gives us to share Heaven with any. Please keep praying for a miracle!
Thank you once again for coming to the site to read Pastor Esposito's update. Please forgive us for taking so long. There is very much to report—ups and downs, praises, and prayer requests.
Monday of this week Pastor Esposito had a follow up visit with the physiatrist. I let him rest in the morning and skipped his exercises we do. He did extremely well, and the doctor was so very positive about his progress even calling it "amazing." I took the speaking valve along, and she asked him to tell her his first and last name. Though it only sounded like heavy air, he said, "Joseph Esposito." She asked his wife's name and with air again but a for sure attempt to speak he said, "Mary." Then she asked his age, and we understood, "I'm fifty…" She told him he had to keep trying.
We discussed how after Pastor spoke, there was, as would be expected, much excitement, many visits, etc. Prior to speaking he had been doing a lot of trying to lip words to communicate. For the last few weeks since, however, he mostly stopped lipping words and only on a few occasions tried to lip when asked to do so. He has also been extremely sleepy. He was simply out of energy. I had thought that maybe he got discouraged because I wasn't understanding, but I talked with him one day about how he'd have to just keep trying to speak even as frustrating as it must be. Then he lipped "I love you" at my request. I try to balance/reserve requests to conserve his energy for daily routine, while trying to get him to take new steps. (For example we are doing new things like blowing a tissue while wearing the PMV to strengthen the vocal cords.)
He certainly enjoys visits with folks and obviously does his best to try to "be there" with folks and smiles. You can see his interest and excitement in his facial expressions. The physiatrist said we just need to be careful and limit his visits to only once per day to keep promoting progress in all areas. Previously, though we were just saying yes to visits at any convenient time, but we will need to be careful. I for sure do not want folks to stop coming. I believe he needs that too (to know he is missed and loved) and "a merry heart doeth good like a medicine."
The doctor said that we definitely need to do what we can to keep the progress up. She gave two specifics that she wants us to work on diligently in the next two months. She wants us to begin in the morning and to try to work our way up in using the PMV (speaking valve). We will do it as long as he can tolerate it and as long as nearby suction, and under direct supervision. The goal is to be able to tolerate it all day. She recommended we postpone walks and prioritize this. Secondly, she wants us to increase time up in the chair as much as possible (which of course has to be done carefully to prevent pressure sores as one of the nurses reminded me; but praise God he just got his own tilt in space wheel chair which if used properly can prevent sores). The goal again is to be up most of the day.
She chose not to change any medications or anything else. She emphasized time and steps and progress again. She said in the future she'd like to have him go to their therapy program, but he'd have to tolerate it for 3 hours at a time. She said he's "not there yet."
For so many who have asked about Pastor Esposito's potential attendance at my son's upcoming wedding (February 28). I want to give an answer including what the physiatrist instructed. We have made the decision not to attempt to have him attend the wedding. First of all, I want to say that it hurts us very much to think of Pastor not being at Timothy and Cindy's wedding. I am sure I am not alone in the many tears I have cried while struggling over this decision. And of course a decision for him not to be there will make the wedding bitter sweet (even his being there would have as he couldn't officiate the wedding). That is the truth of where God has us right now. It isn't going to be the first bitter sweet, and I am pretty sure it won't be the last; but it is where God wants us right now. I typed a list of many diferent considerations we have struggled over, but omitted them.
We are praying for God to give a clear answer on what was best for Pastor Esposito because that's what we all wanted. So considering the physiatrist is supposed to be the expert in coordinating care and developing the best plan for someone in my husband's condition, I asked her. She said no, that it was a bad idea. She said, "Your husband has a brain injury." His perception and ability to cope and energy levels, etc. at this point in recovery is different from what it once was. She said that just the emotion alone of being at his son's wedding would be too much at this point. Then add being in a place, his church, where he hadn't been for a long time, and add 100 people on top of that (and I am sure it will be many more). She said he is doing so very well and that this could be a huge setback to him. I then asked her also about maybe a trip home here and there for a short while. And once again she told me, "He's not there yet." (Be patient.) And again let's focus on the steps at hand and then reevaluate after two months.
I was encouraged a couple days ago while reading in Numbers where God spoke of leading the children of Israel out of Egypt. Having read through my Bible at least once per year since age 12, I still had always pictured the people sleeping at night and getting up to go in the day time and moving forward daily (though it does say he led them at night with fire as well). I never noticed verses 22-23 "Or whether it were two days, or a month, or a year, that the cloud tarried upon the tabernacle, remaining thereon, the children of Israel abode in their tents, and journeyed not: but when it was taken up, they journeyed. At the commandment of the Lord they rested in the tents, and at the commandment of the Lord they journeyed."
God's leading was sometimes stop, sometimes go, sometimes short, and sometimes long; but His will, His way, His time.
Cindy said too that selfishly she'd like to have him there but also questioned if it were best for Him. We do plan to figure out a way to live stream the wedding into his room, then possibly have the wedding party stop in to introduce to him "Mr. and Mrs. Timothy Esposito."
Though I know this is a long update (making up for missed ones), I also wanted to give an explanation of the tracheotomy. This is another area about which quite a few folks have asked. Basically, when my husband had the initial brain injury, the brain stopped operating most of the body. (Praise God his vital organs didn't stop working, even the respirator was only a few days, and he showed to be breathing his own breaths early.) However, folks in a coma, sometimes stroke, etc. aren't swallowing or coughing their phlegm or saliva. Just as the hands and arms and legs stopped working, so did the muscles in the throat. The airway could become blocked, or fluid could be going into the lungs, causing serious pneumonia if there was no way to suction it out. The trach allows a direct way to suction the lungs/airway. I have been told my husband is definitely not ready to remove it. I have looked up multiple internet sites for the "criteria." He is "not there yet." Now the longer he can tolerate the PMV, the better and closer he gets to that point. However, the onsight doctor has said in the past that until she sees him able to very clearly communicate, "I am in distress!" she wouldn't order it. And again, "he's not there yet." What we need to pray is for him to become stronger in his swallow and cough and for his brain to always tell him to do it automatically. He still needs some suctioning, and doesn't automatically swallow when he should. Often I tell him he needs to do so. The man in the next bed speaks and even eats now, but had an emergency the other day where he couldn't breathe and needed to be suctioned for a blockage. The RT told me of another patient that had gotten his out, then became very ill with pneumonia and then they didn't have the option to clear the lungs and easily treat the pneumonia. I hope this gives some clarification. Basically, he still needs it and isn't ready to remove it at this point. Pray, please for progress and strength.
Last, I wanted to take the time to give a prayer request for a gentleman, named Raul, and share how God used it in my own heart. First, I want to backtrack to my son's Sunday School class lessons. The previous Sunday, God had spoken to my heart as Joseph taught about Esther and making a difference. One of the points was that though she was comfortable in the palace, she was willing to allow her heart to be stirred. Then that following week, he spoke of ways to take a stand and make a difference. He gave one point that I didn't take too personally, having been saved 37 years and reading God's Word from the start. It was, "Be ready to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason" (He talked about at work, etc.) The final point was, "Win souls." (With that I was convicted thinking that I hadn't noticed any specific situations recently at my husband's place and thought certainly I just wasn't looking!) That second Sunday, I was walking my husband down the street right by the facility where he stays. A big gentleman in a big truck turned the corner, and rolled down his window and shouted to my husband, "Keep on fighting!" Then he turned to me and said, "You better get the most out of life, it doesn't last long." I don't remember my exact response but I thanked him (thinking he was just trying to encourage us) and said something to the effect of wanting to fulfill a purpose greater than just getting what I can. (Whatever it was it seemed the right answer at the moment and from the Lord.) At that, right in the middle of the street in his vehicle he began to greatly weep. He told me how he is dying from a disease and hopes his wife can get to the USA from India before he dies if he doesn't get a transplant. He asked what is purpose, and why do we live to die. He told me how he cries himself to sleep every night (crying to God). I told him sometimes that's the purpose that we might cry to God in Heaven and know Him, because life is short here, but there's an eternity awaiting us. I was able to talk with him quite a while, and he had to go, but asked that we come by his home around the corner. Several of us have stopped by. Please pray he would personally accept Jesus as his only way to Heaven. He doesn't have long.
What went though my mind driving home weeping was the point about being stirred. I thought of how God uses pain to "stir us" but sometimes it's easy to feel weary and as if the burden is too heavy to carry and want a break from being stirred for a while or more accurately to close our eyes for a bit. Sometimes it seems easier to be a bit numb. (Though deep in my heart I do cherish the lessons God has taught me.) Then I thought of the other point that we may give an answer to every man. This broken dying man didn't stop us on the road because everything was ok with us. It's because God is using something in our lives to stir us so that we could "give an answer" to such a one as this. I thought how a year and a half ago, I couldn't have answered many of the questions because I hadn't gone to the place where I'd be able to give those answers. And I even thought of questions I still struggle with, and how I can't stop allowing God to teach and stir me, or I will never be able to help someone else who hurts and struggles with the same. (I know I am not supposed to struggle but take consolation in the fact that David, the man after God's own heart did, and Job, the one man God pointed out as perfect and upright, struggled with their trials.) I thanked the Lord again for bringing me here, and for opening my eyes once again to a purpose for pain. Somehow it makes it worth it. Please pray for Raul.
Thank you for allowing me to give a long update, and thank you for continuing to pray.
Here are a few specifics:
Thank you so much again!
PRAISE THE LORD, PASTOR ESPOSITO SPOKE HIS FIRST AUDIBLE WORDS TODAY!
"That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the Lord hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it." (Isaiah 41:20)
"Help me , O Lord my God: save me according to thy mercy: that they may know that this is Thy hand; that thou, Lord, hast done it." (Psalm 109:26-27)
Thank you so very much for praying over the past fifteen months for Pastor Esposito. And thank the Lord for His goodness and His mercy. For how far Pastor has come—God gets ALL the glory.
Someone asked me the other day if I think the changes are due to a new medicine. I said, "No, it's God." (Really he'd started two new medications, and one natural remedy that I'd been seeking approval on since the start and also a different method.) I replied that anything that "works" is because of God.
I have written this before, but humanly speaking, Pastor Esposito wasn't supposed to make it off the operating table, wasn't supposed to "wake up", wasn't supposed to move, and I am sure speaking was never anywhere near a slight possibility in any doctor's mind. We were given no hope (well, no more than a 10% chance on waking from coma, but not with functionality.) From the start and along the way, anything at all anyone could do, any therapy, any medication, any method—none of it was ever promised or expected to make any significant difference.
A long while back in the earlier days, while praying about a certain decision the doctor was waiting for me to make, I was really struggling on what to do at that moment. I picked up my Bible, and I read, "In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good." At that moment I felt that God impressed upon me to go ahead because who knowest whether shall prosper? I sort of made a decision along the way that anything God sent my way that seemed right and safe and reasonable and I was able to get a doctor's counsel and okay on, I would try. We've prayed that God would direct me in this way. (For minor type things, I didn't think it was necessary to bother the doctors, like a certain cream. We just added those to the daily routine on our own.)
Every day, there are a multitude of different things on the schedule we follow. (Honestly, there are so many ideas we have found by researching or folks from all over have sent us that some are still on the waiting list!) Even this diet, we've sought approval to change, but it was a "no" many times. Then due to high blood sugar, it was changed. Now today due to other circumstances, it seems a good possibility we may be able to get a "yes" on our prayer. We just trust that God knows what's best at the moment, and trust His timing as well. (I'm not pretending that we don't feel impatient many times or that God doesn't have to bring us back to that place frequently as we seek Him.)
As Pastor has already progressed so much further than predicted, we have no idea what God has chosen to use physically speaking. We simply know that a whole bunch of you have joined us in prayer that God would work a miracle, and we have seen God little by little bring bits of healing at a time and many miracles. It doesn't matter to us what He's chosen to use. We know that He alone is the Great Physician, so to God be the glory.
Now I know folks want to know the specifics of what happened. As I stated in the last update, Pastor has been trying to lip words and even trying to get sound out while unable to get more than air out. Today, my soon to be daughter-in-law was there. I had tried to explain the new method to her and the underlying philosophy of helping his brain to become aware again of the working of the body. She decided to experiment with the method (We are always trying to do something new and creative to "wake up" the neuron connections!). She talked to him about the logistics of breathing when she took flute lessons and the working of vocal chords. She placed the back of her fingers against the vocal chords as she asked him to do "ahhh" and out came the voice! She was so excited that she wanted to ask a real question requiring an answer. I had told her that this morning as I was playing a speech video for him (they were going through colors), I had asked him what color my hair is. He had looked up and said, without any sound, "brown." So she asked, "Preacher, what color is my hair?" And in an audible voice he replied, "black." She was excited and went to the hall to get the RT outside the door to come hear him say something. She also asked him to say, "Mary" and "I" "love" "you" (practicing for me), and he did each. Soon he was tired, so she let him sleep. A while later, Bruce came in to replace Cindy and also the RNA. Cindy said, "I want to show you something." I don't remember all the details, but Bruce asked Pastor how he is, and in a clear audible voice he said, "I'm fine." That's when Bruce called me and said, "Preacher spoke, he said, 'I'm fine.'" I text the family at that point without knowing the whole story. Eventually, many staff were in the room and heard him say words. Cindy said he had a big smile. AGAIN, Praise God. This was our main prayer in the last update (that he'd make sound). Thank you all for praying.
You might also like to know that last night my son Timothy told Pastor he was going to do something different for his finger exercises, so instead of "lift this finger or that" he asked him to put up the right number of fingers. He asked him simple math questions like 2+2, and Timothy and Benjamin said that he got 100%. How neat! It's exciting to see that God has allowed him to have various levels or areas of cognizance like distinguishing color or the reasoning required to do a math problem. (The three younger children were actually playing the "Bible Challenge" DVD game a couple weeks ago and said he was trying to use fingers to answer the multiple choice questions, but I hadn't watched him as he did.)
Another exciting thing was on Sunday afternoon some out of town guests came up the sidewalk outside and said, "Hi Preacher, how are you?" He lifted his hand way up with a "thumbs up."
A Few Specific Prayer Requests
Thank you again for laboring for us all in prayer! God is good…all the time.
P.S. I do want to thank all of the doctors, RN's, RNA's, CNA's, RT's, Neurosurgeons, Neurologists, Physiatrist, Pulmonologist, therapists, and a host of others (I am sure I am missing some) that have done all that they could do to care for my husband and advise us the very best they could under what has been a worst case scenario. I fear in some way I may have at times sounded ungrateful for all of the effort and care many, many have given to my husband at points when we've wished they could give us some hope that really only God Himself could give. I am sure that many are the times that family members like ourselves want you to be miracle workers and have all the answers! We are very grateful for each of you! We don't know what we'd have done without this huge team of people that have taken part from the first night when no doubt God gave us some of the best neurosurgeons there are to save his life to where we are today. I believe God hand-picked each of you and used you in the way He has seen fit. Thank you for being used of the Lord!
I read last night from Colossians before going to sleep, "Epaphrus, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, ALWAYS LABOURING FERVENTLY FOR YOU IN PRAYERS, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you." (Col. 4:12-13) I was reminded how important my own prayer for others is, and also reminded of so many folks that "labor in prayer" for my husband and family and our church. I wanted to take a moment once again to say, "THANK YOU, SO VERY MUCH!" One of the greatest encouragements we have is to know folks are praying. It means the world to us.
I hope your holidays were good. We spent Christmas morning, after going to breakfast with the children, with Pastor Esposito. We packed up our gifts for him and one another, and set up "Christmas" under the gazebo on the patio at the facility. We enjoyed it, and I believe he did as well. It was a great idea that my daughter-in-law had as we were trying to plan out the day.
I also went to the mountains for our annual teen camp with the children New Year's week as is our custom. I missed it last year, and we decided it would be good for me to go last minute this year. I think it was very good for me to get away those few days. I also had a lot of alone time to take snowy prayer walks in the forest and to plan for the new year. My daughter, who is a senior this year, said spiritually speaking it was the best camp ever.
Daily, I am amazed at how very far God has brought us over the last year. Lately, I have been telling my husband, "Joe, do you realize that a year ago you could do nothing? That doctors never expected you to wake up? God has brought you SO FAR you are doing so well." Yesterday, when the nurse came in to bathe him, he was exercising his own left arm, bending it at the elbow up and down as if lifting weights (it's one of the daily exercises we do with him). I told him just a little over a year ago he was in ICU, and his hands were lifeless and cold as ice.
A couple of days ago our own missionaries, the Vong Family, came to see Pastor. (What an encouragement they were to me!) Bro. Vong told Pastor that they were done with deputation and leaving the following day for Cambodia. He said they had traveled over 100,000 miles. Pastor was looking at him and listening intently, and to that he mouthed, "WOW!" Not just a simple "wow." It contained all of the expression and personality of Pastor Joe Esposito. That was a big "WOW" to all of us. (I remember our excitement when he first raised his eyebrow a tiny bit—his first facial expression.) Lately, he had been repeating, "I love you" if I asked him, and often trying on his own to lip things we can't figure out; but this was so clear and so expressive. The Vong children spoke to him one by one, and he looked to each of them in interest. What a blessing! Thank you, Vong family. Our church folks who have been to visit, have also been excited at the increased responsiveness and ability to turn his head and eyes and be attentive. He has responded what looks like "fine" and "good morning" to nursing staff as well. Praise the Lord.
He is doing well with holding himself up straight when we sit him up with minimal support. He is getting stronger, it seems. Last week, I asked him to tilt his head up and down putting his chin to his chest, and he did it very well. This is a big step. He is also turning his head while sitting. He still seems to have some sort of balance problem or something that causes him to tense greatly on his left side. We can get him very relaxed and looking out the window, then when we tilt him forward and side to side he tenses up—particularly his left arm stiffens and pushes. We continue it each week day, and it seems to be helping him. I am hoping he will be allowed to stand again soon.
Most everything that we ask Pastor to do (reasonable requests that push him just a little bit as the physiatrist encouraged), he will try to do like with bent knee – tip it in and out, put your tongue out to the left or to the right, push my hand away, etc.
We are continuing daily with the PMV valve, and he is doing very well with it. He doesn't act distressed as he used to, only for a moment. His cough and swallow seem much better and more reflexive. He tries really, really hard to make sounds when I ask him to do an "ahh" or "mmm," but thus far no voice has come out. I hear the voice in the cough, so I know it's still there. Please pray for him to be able to make some sound. The speech therapist had said a while back that it would be good for him to hear his own voice and maybe motivate him to do more.
I plan to have the practitioner that I mentioned in the last update come again. I waited for the holidays to pass and e-mailed her yesterday to see when her next available time is. We are also checking into getting the device that will track his eyes and allow him to communicate. Joseph asked him yesterday if he thinks he can do that, and Joseph said he lifted his head way up and looked right at him and nodded in a big way. Joseph also practiced having him look at different places on the computer screen to test how he thought he'd do with it. Hopefully, we will be able to do this very soon. I joked that he will finally be able to communicate with his wife that probably really frustrates him on a daily basis—not knowing what he wants to communicate to me and guessing wrongly. Sarah had said we needed to buy the 20 questions game. Sometimes I know he's trying to "tell me something," but I can't figure it out; and we both give up eventually after I ask him many things and he shakes his head no to all of them.
On New Year's Eve, I glanced back through my Bible at verses I had marked where God showed me something. I came across Psalm 109:26-27. "Help me , O Lord my God: save me according to thy mercy: that they may know that this is Thy hand; that thou, Lord, hast done it." Like Isaiah 41:20 that has been hung above my husband's bed for the last 15 months, this is our prayer. That God would do something extraordinary…that all would know that it was HE who had done so…that He'd receive the glory. Thank you for joining us in this prayer.
This Christmas season we'd like to thank our Savior for coming to earth to be born to die that we might have life… but not only life, life abundantly, a life of "peace on earth." Praise God we can find peace in Him while on this earth! We'd also like to thank you once again for following this site and for your faithful prayer this past year.
Please forgive me for having taken way too long to write this update. I have thought much about it, and about all those of you who read to know how to pray and to praise the Lord. Partly, I have procrastinated due to extreme business, partly because I have thought round and round in my mind about how to write this update and what to say. So I'll do my best to be open and give you a better view of what is happening. I may be a little long in order to be thorough.
Over six months ago, the neurosurgeon (based upon the response he saw, and the need to do something proactive) wrote an order for Pastor Esposito to see a physiatrist (fĭz′ē-ăt′rĭst or fĭ-zī′ə-trĭst). I suppose we looked forward to that appointment with both anticipation and hope as well as a bit of hesitation not desiring to be disappointed by unfulfilled expectations.
Finally, on December 8th, the appointment came. Pastor Esposito, as I said in the brief update that week, was very responsive. It was exciting, while at the same time it broke my heart, to see how very hard he tried to do what he could to show the doctor, "I'm in here, and I hear and understand!" She asked if he could raise his eyebrows, and you wouldn't have known that anyone could raise them that quickly or high up. She asked him to point his toes up, and though he pressed the wrong direction, he quickly pressed both of his feet far forward, including the weak side that has little movement still. He raised his arm at her request, tried as best he could to open his mouth to "say hi," and opened his hand all the way up, etc. The physiatrist asked the history, asked many questions, looked at his medications, etc.
She then focused on the topic of medications:
I don't know how to describe what my hope or expectation WAS. Perhaps a test with a grade that placed him on a rising scale? An evaluation that gave me some prediction based on his progress so far? A name for his present state? The physiatrist said that the various coma or brain injury scales, etc. don't really "fit" his present situation, though she did tell me he is NOT considered in a coma any longer (some have asked). I guess I knew that my expectation of those types of answers was unrealistic, though I still hoped. And I was reminded once again that God remains the only one in control and only He knows our future and what He has planned for us, and what He has planned is what is best. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. (Jeremiah 29:11)
If I were to recap the appointment, it would be to continue what we are doing, take a few more steps, push just a bit harder… seek progress. She mentioned some ways to do so. For example to have him in the chair twice per day for two hours instead of 3 hours once per day.
I asked about the tracheotomy as well. She said it was not her area of expertise, but that I should talk with the pulmonologist at the facility that sees him regularly about potentially trying the pmv valve for longer periods of time. (I did speak with the pulmonologist since and this has begun, So far, he has seemed to do well with it other than a slight decrease in oxygen, according to one RT, but within safe range. Doing this should strengthen his lungs and diaphragm.)
The physiatrist then asked me if I had any questions. It was one of those moments that are hard to know what to say. I have a million questions that flood my mind endlessly every day, to which I wish I had answers. I hesitated and asked her, "what questions should I ask?" I tried to explain to her that I have been hoping and looking for some answers, at least guidance. She helped me to step back and see that #1 the neurosurgeon was proactive in writing the order for me to go there. Then the neurologist was proactive in trying the earlier medication. And now she had laid out a few steps we could take to try to push forward a bit in various areas. She said let's try these steps and then bring him back in two months to evaluate. I tried to smile and I asked, "are you telling me to 'be patient'?" (It seemed so.) She responded basically that I had been very patient, but that we needed to take the steps we could.
Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him! The verse I have quoted to my husband countless times.
I also asked her perspective of going home, same answer. Be patient (in different words). Focus on the steps you can take and take them rather than looking at where you want to be. Help him to get strong. (my translation)
Seems on the surface the answer is an oxymoron—wait, be patient…take steps, push. God brought to my mind the verses "Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord." I looked them up. If you read the places that was written, they weren't standing still in the sense of not moving forward, it was a resting, depending trust in the Lord while taking the steps he gave them to take.
THE SECOND APPOINTMENT was on December 11th. It was with a practitioner using a different method. I was referred to this method by the author of My Stroke of Insight which I was recommended to read when we were in the ICU initially. Insurance will not cover this method, but having read the related book Children Without Boundaries it seemed very much that it may be something helpful to try giving the brain awareness of parts of the physical body it seems unaware of. (It was mentioned that perhaps he has "right neglect" though sometimes it seems so but not others.) I plan to have the practitioner see him at least a few times. The first appointment the practitioner seemed to just be trying through movement to get to know him and the movement he does and does't have. Please pray that God will use this method if His will to bring him along as well.
Early this morning, surgery was done to replace the feeding tube. The procedure went well, and there are no restrictions. Praise God one of the technicians who traveled in the ambulance to the hospital with Pastor excepted Christ as Savior this mornng! I won't give the details here, but it was God's perfect timing. I believe even including all the delays to getting the peg replaced… Pastor would have called it "the season of the soul." I told Pastor the angels were rejoicing in heaven as he lay on the table.
Now a few general updates, which are praises to the LORD. Pastor Esposito's right hand and arm movement are more frequent. He shakes and nods his head more frequently. He has seemed to want to move his mouth to talk recently on several occasions. He tried a lot yesterday to do "mmmm" and "ahhhhh," but I only hear air; although, he is definitely trying. Hopefully with more "try" he can become stronger, and get enough air through the windpipe to make sound. I have him blow the razor each morning for the same purpose. For some time he has been watching "GEMIINI" a type of speech therapy I found online. His general responsiveness/alertness is growing little by little. His balance seems better when we sit him up. Today we barely held him after we sat him on the side of the bed and put the PBC 25 Year Anniversary video on for him to see. Praise God once again for our little miracles. Praise God for giving us baby steps. Praise God for growing us along the way…teaching us to trust Him more, to depend upon Him more. God is good.
Thank you for your prayer, love, encouragement, notes, e-mails. Thank you for allowing God to use you to encourage us.
May you have a very MERRY CHRISTMAS,
The Esposito Family
P.S. As I am sending this e-mail Pastor is in the chair waiting to go outside. I placed his hat on his lap. He is trying to lift the hat up and tilt his head down!
Thank you all who prayed for our physiatrist appointment. It went well, and Pastor Esposito was extremely responsive. I will type a more detailed update on the appointment very soon. For now, please pray for another appointment at 11:30 today. It is with a practitioner who uses a specific method that's been very successful to help the brain learn. I believe the way I came about finding her was from the Lord, and pray He will use her to help. I will give more details on that along with the detailed Physiatrist update. I am sorry to keep everyone unposted life has been extremely busy the past week including a long night in ER with one of my children, who is fine, and I have been spending extra time trying to fill in some for one of our church employees who has been very ill.
Pray for a miracle from the Lord on Whom we depend,
Mrs. Joe Esposito
We would like to thank everybody once again for praying for Pastor. I would like to give a brief update because many people have asked that we update more frequently. Monday of this past week, we were scheduled for a G.I. consult to have the feeding tube changed. However there was another glitch and rescheduling elsewhere is pending.
One morning as I arrived to the room, I noticed saline tubes packed in ice. I inquired the purpose. I was told that he had coughed up blood during the night, and that this is the way that they stop bleeding within the Esophagus or lungs. There was no apparent bleeding after that. Praise The Lord!
Another time I entered the room this week after stepping out to get some lunch, Pastor's feet were turned within his boot splints. The right foot which rarely moves was really turned. I am not sure what happened (maybe a small seizure or tremmor). We have no explanation. The bloodwork testing the seizure medication from last Friday's incident came back normal. Full labs will be drawn on Tuesday. Please pray much for Monday's appointment with the physiatrist. Please pray that there will be no glitches. Also, pray that he will be alert and responsive like he has been recently. (Often he is able to do something new, then unable to do it except on occasion.) Pray that we will receive some helpful direction. At the end of the day God is our Great Physician and we trust Him to do what's best. Thank you again from Pacific Baptist Church and the Esposito family.
It was encouraging yesterday as our Filipino pastor and family came to visit Pastor Esposito. He said something funny, and immediately Pastor Esposito had a good smile. I hadn't seen his smile since two updates back saying he'd gotten his smile back.
Last night Pastor Esposito seemed to have had another seizure though there was no way to confirm. Lab work will be done Monday, though that seems a bit of a delay from Friday. (I like to think I know more than nurses and doctors sometimes.) The gentleman who was with him described it the same way as previously when he appeared to have a seizure. The nurse said that maybe he was just unable to breathe and needed to be suctioned. I suppose we won't know anything other than if the medication levels in his blood are okay on Monday. Although we typically are with him from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. it kills me to not be with him personally. Yet I have 7 children still at home along with various other responsibilities. Each time the phone rings and I am not there, I wonder if it's bad news, and sometimes I have a faint hope that someone will tell me Pastor Esposito did something new or even spoke a word.
I listened the other day with my husband to a sermon where he talked about the death of a vision. (Almost daily I play one of his sermons for him to watch. I want him to remember who he was, his mannerisms, how he spoke, even what he believes, and possibly trigger his memory or wake something up within him.) At one point he spoke of hard times when it seems all vision is lost like being on a roller coaster and that you might close your eyes for a moment and just hang on tight but hang on. It was good for me. Thank you for continuing to pray as we continue to trust the Lord, His goodness, and His plan and purpose.
We wanted to take Thanksgiving Day to give thanks to the Lord. For those who may simply want a prayer update, minus the sentimentalities, let me give a brief update. Pastor Esposito was on the medication I spoke of for two weeks. As I said, he seemed more alert and smiling appropriately. It was discontinued last Thursday, as it was meant to be a two week experiment. He has been very sleepy, even more so than "normal." The nurse here had to message the neurologist to see if he'd recommend continuing it longer since it seemed to help some. We are going to trust what he feels best, so please pray that the Lord guides through him. We have been sitting him up daily. We felt him pulling his trunk up some yesterday, so that was neat. He has gotten better at giving me a kiss. Puckers a tiny bit. My brother-in-law sent something saying that a husband's kiss creates a chemical change in his wife that prevents depression, so I told him that. For a long time my husband and I joked and quoted an article that said a wife's morning goodbye kiss prolongs the life of her husband! I guess it goes both ways. Another blessing is that in a very faint way, I can see him trying to formulate sounds or words after me. I really believe he just doesn't have strength to do it, nor to push the air up through the vocal cords. He opened as if to repeat "ahhhhh" after me. No sound, though. I keep telling him something from the book, My Stroke of Insight written by a brain scientist who had a stroke. "The 'try' is everything" and not to stop trying even if he can't so that one day he can.
Now for our praise – I'll share a couple of my children's first (I asked them late yesterday – so not all got to write one).
I'm so thankful for the things that the Lord has done in my life and in the lives of our family since my dad has been in the hospital. We've learned much and have been blessed and had HIS grace shed abundantly on us. Here are some of many that I could give:
I could go on for a long time but will stop. God is good.
I believe that over the last year I have realized and God has shown me in more ways than ever that he loves me and that he loves our family. He's used a thousand different ways. From truth, strength and encouragement from his own Word to the kindness and care of His people in the darkest hours, his love has shown through. Our trial hasn't caused me to doubt but has only confirmed that my heavenly Father loves me. Like I read yesterday "...hath done all things well." Mark 7:37
God is always good! In the last year I have personally seen so many miracles from God. The biggest thing I am thankful for is that God has kept my daddy alive. I am thankful that in the last year God has used my dad's situation to bring me closer to HIM. Prayer has become a very important part of my life. God has also given me more of a heart for others. I can truly say that this year has been the most fruitful (by God's grace) that I have been for HIM in ministry. I thank God for working all things for good!
Specifically this past year, I so am thankful to God for allowing me to be able to get closer to Him than ever before through all that has happened. He has been such a faithful Friend to me, and He has shown Himself so strong in my life. I am also thankful for the amazing family that He has given to me. I'm thankful that I have a mom that loves God, her children, and her husband. If it wasn't for her I would not be able to keep on going every day. Lastly, I'm thankful for our church family, and just everyone who has prayed for us and been an encouragement! I can't mention everything, but God has given me so much and I am so blessed :)
Of course on a page like this, we can only scratch the surface in praising God for His goodness. But let me share a few.
I am thankful for the cross. So many times God has brought me back there to enlighten my eyes. When I've been lonely He's shown me Jesus facing a time when God, His Father, had to turn His back on Him (yet He's promised never to leave me). When I've wondered the reason why, I see Him crying out, "My God, my God why hast Thou forsaken me?" When the pain has seemed more than I could bear, I am reminded of the pain He faced for me which we could never fathom. When things that have been said have stung, I remember Jesus being mocked while facing unimaginable pain. I find an answer to every hurt in looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.
Recently one of our very young men suffered cardiac arrest in the auditorium just before our Tuesday evening soul winning meeting. One of our new ladies was near and immediately began CPR and some of our men took over until the paramedics came and shocked him twice before his heart began to beat again. He was initially put into an induced coma, and facing a need for an implanted device to keep his heart from stopping in the future, and possible open heart surgery. On one certain day I went early in the morning to visit him after he'd woken up and was getting ready for surgery. As I walked into the room he hung his head and said to me, "I am so ashamed." I didn't understand at first. Then his mom told me he was just talking about being weary and wanting to go home to be with his wife. She had just told him to "think about Pastor and Miss Mary." (Just a side note – what this man has gone through was and is no small trial!) My first thought as I walked to my car was, "Here's one reason to keep on keeping on during the hardest times." We have to make it through our hard times so we can encourage others they can make it through theirs. We need each other to "make it." In fact it's one of the REASONS as Joseph stated, God allows our trials and a reason to thank HIM for the trial. Later in the week on a day I was struggling some myself– I remembered that scene in the hospital clearly, and immediately I remembered the cross of our Lord, and my pain seemed so small. I hung my own head and said, "I am so ashamed of myself" after all HE's done for me, and my trial seemed so small, and I said to myself, "I can make it because my Savior did!"
Another thing I am so thankful for are tears. What would I do if I couldn't cry to Him? During times when I have felt somewhat numb, I have been grateful when the tears came. I may have said this in the past, but I asked Siri once if it's harmful to cry too much. What I found was that tears release toxins from our body (probably produced from stress), and it's actually healthy to cry! I'm sure God made us that way so we'd cry TO HIM. (And of course Scripture already shows us a pattern of crying to the Lord in our distress: Psalm 40:1, Psalm 86:7, Psalm 88, and so many more)
And I am thankful for so many who have reached out to encourage us through a text, an e-mail, a gift in the mail, a card from someone we never met, a meal, a McDonalds gift card, and more than anything your prayer which mean the world to us! And how can I not mention His Word. I'd die without it. It's my "necessary food."
As Joseph said – I can go on, but won't. I'll just repeat, GOD IS GOOD. I also must thank God for letting me be the wife and mom in this great family of which I am so undeserving and the pastor's wife so long of the greatest church family on earth!
Our family would like to thank you once again for your many prayers for Pastor Esposito. Also, I didn't want to let a day go by without sharing and praising the Lord for this - God has given my husband back his smile. Over the past week or so we've seen more grins when someone has said something funny or reminisced about the past. Yesterday, his former pastor from his early days, Jim Black, was in California for the 40th anniversary of the church which he was pastor (my husband's home church before attending Bible college). Pastor Black and his wife came by to see my husband. As he spoke, my husband was extra responsive and smiling at his humor in a way he hadn't before. Then this morning I was doing a leg stretch for my husband where you lift it straight up toward the ceiling, and I was tired and put it down and started laughing and told him, "maybe you could be an acrobat in a circus when this is all over." He had the biggest smile. I told him I was so happy God had given his smile back! Shortly after, his brothers came in and were being really funny. They joked about who's oldest and teased the activities coordinator who'd come in to drop off something. Pastor Esposito was much more than smiling - I'd say he was laughing each time something was funny. I stepped out for a few minutes, and on the way I told the two nurses outside the room, "My husband has his smile back." They went in to see. I told the receptionist, Marilyn, who had come for our special day at church a couple weeks ago that I wanted to share a blessing with her... and told her the same. She began to cry. She said, I know he's going to get better. After this, I left for a meeting back at church, and my brother-in-law Jimmy stayed. He said this was "the buzz of the hospital" and that the nurse practitioner came in to see, and that Pastor Esposito was very responsive and following commands. She said, "I won't doubt you guys' faith any more."
Just to help make sense for people who don't understand the state he's in (neither do I to tell the truth). The things he is able to do are very slow and takes what seems a great amount of effort. He doesn't seem quite as "in and out" as before. He still sleeps a lot, and when he opens his eyes, he more often seems aware, though often times he still has a stare without response. I often wonder if he's just used all the energy he could muster and can't or he's tired from trying.
I also want to praise the Lord and thank you again for praying for our special day at PBC and the folks we were able to talk with at the nursing center. As I mentioned, the receptionist came. She was the only one on that day from there, though we had a multitude of visitors that day at church. This past week I called a patient who had gone home, but had promised to come. My son and I picked him up, and he came Sunday. It was also was neat that a Muslim lady from India I've made friendship with came and found me this week and asked me to bring her a Bible. She said that her son had told her that the stories are the same, and that both talk of Jesus. She also said maybe we can talk and compare and learn what the other believes... she said, "even though I won't convert you, and you won't convert me." Some folks who used to attend PBC are ministering to Muslims, and I was able to get a Gospel of John from them in Arabic with comments and a tract. I also brought her a regular Bible. We haven't gotten to talk since. Another patient called me as I passed him in the hallway, and asked me if he could get another of those brochures since his got thrown away.
God has been so good. He knows just when I need to see His hand in a little more tangible way, and always is sure to show Himself strong.
Thank you again for praying. Please pray for the physiatrist appointment December 8th and for continued healing; and most of all for a miracle. (I say that hesitantly, because I know all God has done and however far we've come is ALL a miracle!)
A lot has happened since the last update. Praise the Lord Pastor Esposito was able to have two weeks of therapy before it was withdrawn for insurance reasons. We were able to be trained in some new ways to work with him, and for that we are thankful. We had hoped that if therapy withdrew we could do all of the range of motion exercises and splinting and utilize the RNA's time to help sit him up daily. At the end of the time, that is exactly what was recommended. And we were told it is unusual to allow this, yet God gave me the desire of my heart for my husband.
We saw the neurologist on Wednesday. We talked about the anti-seizure medication which I hoped to reduce again, more gradually. The doctor said he is taking a moderate amount and that he didn't believe that it would make much difference in responsiveness level. He also said he recommends it two years out from brain injury. So we are choosing to leave that alone.
The neurologist did recommend a medication that he said is a brain stimulant that the other doctors on his team tend to use. He believed it good to try for two weeks to a month. So that began on Thursday. He also approved the natural supplement I had been requesting approval for for a long while now. Then the staff at the nursing center said they are unable to administer it due to a lack of expiration date (inspection guidelines). Please pray that God will use the new medication as it is His will and allow the other if it is His will.
Pastor Esposito tried to move his mouth slightly in response to a question by the RNA yesterday. Very slight again, but a try. He has done well at sitting up, and it seems that if we can give him enough help and time, he could regain the strength to do so without help.
Tomorrow we will have a procedure done to replace the peg to the stomach which has popped twice. Please pray for that procedure. Just a few more weeks and we will finally see the physiatrist. Please pray that we receive some new direction from that appointment.
Thank you so much for your prayer. As we have said many times, it means the world to us. Please keep praying for a miracle.
I wanted to take a moment to share with those who are praying for Pastor Esposito a few blessings, and of course to give God the praise for them. After posting last week that we were told there was no way to get therapy approved, the head of the therapy department came and told me that it was approved for up to ten days. He also told me that unless something extraordinary happens like his learning to brush his own teeth, it wouldn't be continued after that. Then, we will praise the Lord for the ten days! Monday they had him sitting on the edge of the bed practicing picking up his head and leaning on his elbows on either side, and holding onto a chair in front of him and they were trying to get him to pull himself. Tuesday, he was taken to the therapy room for the first time, and they stood him up for the first time in a little more than a year. It was really neat to see him in a standing position. A table keeps his knees from buckling or sliding, but he holds his own weight. He did pretty well at holding his head though he avoids turning to the right (maybe due to the surgeries and shunt on that side?) Today was more sitting on the edge of the bed, leaning, and some new exercises to increase mobility. I am learning new techniques that we can continue to use going forward. Please pray that he will get the most possible from these couple of weeks. I was asked by one of the therapists, "What is your expectation?" How do I answer that question? I was silent at first. Inside I wanted to say if you mean what do I want you to accomplish, "I expect you to get him walking and talking, and help him to be who he was." Then she said, "some families want the patient to be able to shift from a bed to a chair, or make it to the restroom, or to just stand." Just before that conversation, she had told me that because he didn't follow her directions very well, only mine, she wasn't sure she'd go on more than a couple of days (this was occupational therapy – not physical therapy that was doing sitting and standing). I told her that considering he has been lying in a bed for an entire year the fact that they can feel him trying to participate in sitting up and moving some and trying to turn from side to side, etc. is to me very big. I asked her did she not think that if they could work with him and help strengthen him maybe he could do much more. Then she told me she hadn't thought it was a whole year, and that okay, she'd keep on working with him. On a positive note, she did say that he was doing much more than when she last worked with him.
A few more "little" big things. Two of our assistant pastors and one of our members came today and were reminiscing about some funny stories from the past, and you could tell by the expression and attempt to smile that Pastor Esposito was enjoying the fellowship. I appreciate that our pastoral staff have faithfully come to see Pastor Esposito weekly since the start. I believe he knows and appreciates it, and it means a lot to our family as well. Today my son and daughter-in-law placed the baby in my husband's arm, and he picked up his other arm and placed it on the baby as if to hold on to him and gently feel his hand. Another "little" encouraging time was when I was showing my husband a card and telling him about the lady who had sent it who has really gone out of her way to encourage me—a lady I don't know from Louisiana—and another card from a lady in our church. I asked him if he remembered the lady from our church, and he gave me an obvious nod and a lift of the eyebrow. God is so good to continue to give us hope and encouragement through His Word, through little blessings, through wonderful people like those of you reading this update and praying.
Last night I couldn't sleep, and God brought to my mind the verse, "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee." And recently I have though much of the verse, "I had fainted unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD." How true. If we get to dwelling on our problems and begin to have a pity party, we will soon faint, but if we will believe enough to look at God's goodness and blessings He sustains us.
Specific Prayer Requests:
Thank you once again for keeping up with our updates and for praying diligently for Pastor Esposito. Yesterday, we went to see the neurosurgeon once again. It was a blessing because though we were told he was out of the contracted group and that I'd have to pay $150 for the visit, by the end of the visit it was approved. I wasn't sure exactly what the purpose was in going. We had gone in June at the three month mark after placing the shunt and this appointment was set at that time. That was the appointment at which Pastor Esposito responded very well, and Dr. Szper had said we needed a physiatrist to try to help "bring him out". We are still waiting for that appointment (scheduled for December) and the neurologist (scheduled for November). We hadn't had any additional CT scans. On the way, I prayed that somehow, some way our visit would bring Dr. Szper closer to salvation through the visit. I don't know how the Holy Spirit worked, but I pray my prayer was answered somehow through our conversation. Dr Szper said my husband had progressed much more than he'd expected from the start, and he asked me questions about my husband's responsiveness. And as usual, once again he reminded me of the medical truth that we don't know how much further progress we will see. He said, "It's stimulation." We talked about therapy coming in and being hopeful and positive, but how (I don't think I've posted this yet.) they have basically said he can't qualify for any therapy (maybe in about 12 years when he is 65). From a medical perspective, Dr. Szper was basically telling me—it's largely about what we can do to try to stimulate and "wake him up" and that still there are no guarantees to what extent his brain will wake up. So within two days we were told from one doctor that it mostly depends upon the therapies, and from the head therapist that he can't qualify for any! Dr. Szper agreed that just maybe the physiatrist will be able to give some additional help and hope. In the mean time we will continue to pray and trust the Lord while we do what we can do.
Please help us to pray for Dr. Szper's salvation. I plan this week to invite him to a special day we are having at our church on November 2nd. Please also pray for a man named Joseph who is being released from the rehab side tomorrow and who promised that he and his daughter will be at our special day. I am also trying to get a Jewish lady named Sarah whose husband is also in the facility to come. She is contemplating coming. She often talks with me and cries. She has no one, her only daughter lives in Israel. There is also a gentleman named Ed who lives in the next door apartment to the nursing center that is seriously thinking of coming as well. He said he grew up in a Baptist home, but went away from church when he left home. He seems like he very well may come. This gentleman sees me walking my husband in the wheel chair as he is often out in the parking lot with his truck. He had told me of losing his wife after she'd been in a facility like this and then had gone home. The front receptionist, Marilyn has promised to come. She lives in Long Beach. There are several others I or my family have invited. Please pray with us. My daughter Susanna and I were driving and talking last night and she spoke about the fact that our lives should be all about winning others to the Lord, and she was telling me how God has been impressing on her that if our focus is on this end the other things that come our way in life won't matter so much. And I added that what does come our way should be a tool toward the end of reaching others for Him, and so I have prayed since the first night that because of our trial, many would come to HIM. Our present goal is to invite all the staff who have cared for my husband, and all of the folks we've gotten to know there (family members of patients) for our special day November 2nd.
Here are a few more updates: The worry of an obstruction in the digestive system seems to have been false. Pastor's blood sugar has been good since the change in the formula that they have fed him. One prayer seems to have been answered—tomorrow my husband will be fitted for his own chair. This has been going around for many months. And I was told that I would have to pay several thousand dollars and now I most likely will not have to pay anything. Our church family took up an offering for that part of the chair, and we hope to purchase a program/device that uses eye tracking to help a person whose mind is there but can't speak to communicate. I hope to get some input on this from the physiatrist as well.
Please continue to pray for wisdom in making right decisions, I have many different thoughts on this or that, or making specific changes and often go back and forth in my thoughts. But I desire God's clear leading in every way (medications, treatments, facilities, etc.) I also appreciate that many people give various ideas and opinions, and I don't want to miss anything God sends along through others, while neither do I want to take any steps He doesn't want me to take. Then, I remember and acknowledge that God alone is the Great Physician, and He alone able to heal Pastor Esposito. I also remember that He wants me to do my part, and I think of Ecclesiastes 11:6, a verse he showed me which gave me peace during one important decision I had to make earlier. This verse reminds me, who knows what the Lord might use! (Now you see why I need prayer for God's direction!)
ABOVE ALL ELSE, Please continue to pray for a miracle that all may "know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the LORD hath done this…"
Our family would like to give our sincerest thanks to our wonderful church family and so many people across the country and around the world who have continued to pray for Pastor Esposito for a full year today. I may have mentioned in a previous update, but some of my husband and my favorite verses through the years have been Ephesians 3:20-21, "Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think… Unto him be glory…" Though it has been a very difficult year and our hearts have broken, God has shown Himself faithful to do so much more than we could have thought. Here is what I wrote in a card I read to my husband today:
On this 1st anniversary of your AVM rupture, I wanted to remind you I love you, not only just as much but more than ever. I also want to take this day to praise and thank God together for His great goodness during our 28 years of marriage together. I realize very well the Lord could have taken you home a year ago today. It was a miracle you made it to the hospital, a miracle you made it through surgery the first night, and now a thousand plus miracles later, God has allowed us to have you still. Though we don't know exactly what the future holds, I know God has a plan and purpose for you, for us, for our family, and for Pacific Baptist Church. We'll keep trusting, believing, hoping, waiting, and praying until the day He chooses to take us home. I'll be by your side that's the purpose for which I was created (just like Eve).
I brought you two balloons…one "get well" to remind you I'm praying for you day and night…and a red heart to remind King Joseph that his Queen Mary loves him a LOT! And the other side to praise God Who loves us so (It says, "truly God is Good").
I thought of listing all the miracles in order to give God the glory, but it would be a long page! Here's what I would have put only for the miracles of his eyes as little by little God has given us miracles:
And I can go on and tell the "little miracles" in so many areas. His body being able to maintain temperature on its own, breathing on his own, a first yawn or sneeze, response to sound, expression, first movement in the face, a toe and then a foot, then a leg moving, a finger, then hand, then arm…and on and on I could go.
And we are thankful for the many lessons learned and the way God has molded us. I asked my children this evening as we went out to eat together to write down for me just one way that God has worked in their lives this past year. What precious lessons as precious gold from the furnace. For these we give thanks and for a Heavenly Father that loves us enough to take us where we'd never have chosen to go that we might be able to say with Job, "I have heard of thee with the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth Thee."
Thank you once again, and PLEASE CONTINUE TO PRAY FOR A MIRACLE.
Thank you for praying! Pastor Esposito had physical therapy the day after the last update. Therapy evaluated his range of motion, and he participated somewhat in moving. They sat him up and he did well. Though it took two therapists to get him up, they have a really neat way to use a sheet around the back then tied to his knees to help hold him up. He did really well with trying to pick up his head and look around as well. Besides his ankles needing some extra stretching, they said that he is in good shape. They also said, "He's a strong guy." They were very positive, and said they would work with him for a week to help strengthen him and then teach us to do the same so he could be up like that a couple times per day. Everything was very positive until the following morning when I asked if they were coming and they said we were back to the same basic CNA splinting. They told me it would take a minimum of a month to try to get approval from insurance for the therapists to work with him. That was discouraging, but again we will choose to trust that God's timing is right. In the mean time we are going to try on our own to do the best we can to get him sitting up when we change from one person staying with him to the other while two of us are still there.
Here are a few newer prayer requests
We thought everyone might like to see a couple of pictures from Pastor Esposito's birthday. Thank you for continuing to pray for miracles and more than anything for God's will and God's glory.
Pastor Esposito's 54th Birthday was an eventful one with several visitors during the day, and a family get together this evening including the first grandson – Joseph Esposito III. (Remembering and praising God that the doctor felt that my daughter-in-law couldn't conceive due to a tumor at the base of her brain, and Joseph has been born in direct answer to prayer.) Praise the Lord for another year for Pastor Esposito that according to medical predictions should not have even been.
Much has happened since the last update. Our medical group changed things somewhat, and Pastor Esposito has a new general doctor that will be seeing him weekly. Our first visit was a very thorough one. We discussed the fact that his blood work was out of whack, RBC a little low, blood sugar high, and cholesterol high. (Pastor Esposito was extremely healthy before his illness.) She noticed they had begun a cholesterol medication and asked me if it were okay to stop it since it's bad for the liver and work with his digestive system that to her appeared to be not working correctly since his stomach is distended. She ordered an x-ray of the stomach and blood sugar monitoring. Today was the one week mark. She gave me what appears to be bad news, but with a silver lining. She said he is diabetic. The positive is that they are changing the formula he is fed to a low sugar feeding. That is very good news, and something we have prayed would happen. (I had been told it's extremely hard to get feedings changed.) I wouldn't be surprised if just this change doesn't help greatly. She said that this very well could be affecting the triglycerides as well. But in the end – Praise God for a change in diet which is an answer to prayer!
Another answer to prayer came for Pastor Esposito's birthday, which is also a prayer request, and the reason for this evening's update. Quite a few various staff members of the healthcare center have asked me questions over the past few weeks. "What do 'they' say about his trach?" "Do 'they' sit him up?" "Have 'they' ever tried standing him?" "Is he having therapy?" "Has he been reevaluated?" All the while I have been trying to wait patiently for the physiatrist to do an evaluation and then request some changes or increase involvement - the same way God used the neurosurgeon to order the things we'd been hoping and praying for (one being a physiatrist). There has been a delay in the physiatrist; it's been 3 months since the order – and the appointment is set for December (6 months later).
Then today, my husband's nurse asked about him sitting up. I told her that I can't sit him up myself, and that he hadn't been qualified for therapy. She told me to call her when his splints were off and she'd help me. She came in and we sat him up. She felt him trying in his back. We also asked him to look this way and that, and he did. He tried to squeeze – even with his right hand which still doesn't have very much movement at all. It was really exciting. He was able to have his feet on the floor and his hands beside him on the bed. It seemed to be a very productive time! Then my daughter arrived and I went back to Long Beach. When I arrived back and we were all outside for the birthday get together – the head of therapy came by to tell me that tomorrow they are coming back to evaluate again. WHAT A PERFECT BIRTHDAY PRESENT! Also, the director of nursing staff stopped in the hallway to tell me that they'd discussed his responsiveness and hopefully therapy could take him back on again. Praise the Lord.
It was a long day for Pastor Esposito with a lot of activity. Please pray that he will rest between now and whenever they come in tomorrow and that he will have the strength and mental capacity to do what they want to see so that they can take him on again. I believe they said two different therapists will come.
One other blessing – I posted a large card up on the hanging tv. Pastor Esposito's eyes again went from section to section where folks had written him Birthday notes. Wasn't too long ago that his eyes didn't even open, and then were not able to work together. In fact his medical records state that he "blew" an eyeball right in front of the doctors eyes on the night of the rupture. I don't know to what extent he sees – but he definitely tries to read, and tracks, and follows.
Praise God for the way He strategically in His time and in His way unfolds His plan and purpose in our lives. A few days ago while sitting in traffic on the way to the hospital I felt impatient. As we often do, I tried a couple lane changes which got me nowhere. It was as if the Holy Spirit impressed upon me that this is how I act in life often. I want to impatiently make things happen that I can do nothing about but patiently trust in the Lord. Stay on the road He's placed us on, and in His time we will get where He is taking us. As I was leaving tonight a gentleman I've talked with frequently (a patient) was talking to another patient, and he said, "Mary, isn't that right that there can be miracles and cures even though they say there are none, and you just never know?" I was able to share what God's done for us. How perfect is His timing. Thank you for your faithful prayer and care.
Please continue to pray for miracles.
Thank you once again for your faithful prayer. Please forgive the time between updates. Pastor Esposito has been stable, and has shown more alertness and responsiveness, little by little as we "trust in the Lord" and "wait patiently for him." Sometimes it's hard for us to see the extent of improvement since we are with him from morning til night, but everyone who comes to see him and hasn't been here for a bit notices. And we do too when we stop to think and thank the Lord. My children were excited the other evening as Joanna asked her dad to wave to her, and he picked up his hand and tried. Nathaniel said, "I remember when Dad couldn't do anything." Praise God.
Pastor's feeling on the right side seems very slowly to be coming back. An X-ray and labs were drawn to check for pneumonia, and the tests came back good. There is some damage to one lung, probably from the initial respiratory failure and several bouts of pneumonia, but he breathes on his own, and is making some progress by wearing the PMV valve several times a week to strengthen his lungs more and improve his cough and swallow. His swallow is definitely improving.
Please continue to pray specifically
At 10:00 PM a couple of nights ago, I got into an accident with the three youngest children in the car while returning from the healthcare center. The following morning I needed to tell Pastor Meyers since the vehicle is a car purchased for my husband in the church name. I asked him if he wanted the good or bad news first. He asked if the good negates the bad, and I said probably not. Then I told him. The same day there were several other problems that arose, including a call from my son with a flat tire, and a home alarm stuck on, and our bus not making it up the mountain for a retreat my other son was in charge of. Several things came to my mind. One thing that came to my mind was that other than having to tell Bro. Meyers about the car, "none of these things moved me." Yet trials have a way of changing our perspective on life and showing us that what typically would have stressed us isn't really that important after all. And you find God can give peace in the midst of the storm. Another thing I thought of was that really, in a way, the good really does negate the bad. I told my children way back that God had been so good to me. I'd had 28 great years with my husband and a wonderful marriage. How could I complain. I like to walk and push my husband in the wheel chair as they lift him up and into the chair for three hours daily now. We pray together. I pray aloud and push. I thanked the Lord once again for His great goodness, and I asked my husband how many couples get the privilege of serving in one church for 25 years with the greatest people in the world, of having 8 children who love the Lord and want to serve Him, again of having the best marriage I ever knew of (of course I am biased)
God really is good and in my eyes, the good really does negate the bad.
I don't mean for this to be a personal devotional site, that wasn't the purpose of beginning it rather an update on how to pray for Pastor Esposito, and a way to praise God and give Him the glory for all He has done. But I thought maybe anyone going through a hard time may be helped by a lesson God impressed upon my heart which I shared at a class ladies fellowship last Saturday that relates. Here are the notes.
Once again we would like to thank you for your continual prayer for Pastor Esposito. Overall, the last couple weeks we have seen more alertness and responsiveness than any previous weeks. It is clear that Pastor Esposito understands but is very limited in his ability to respond. Most of the staff at the facility have now noticed his ability to communicate without speech and now talk with him expecting response. Respiratory therapists ask him if he wants to be suctioned. One asks him to "blink rapidly." The blinks are very obvious. Another asks for a nod or shake of the head. The response is minimal but recognizable. A physical therapist that I had gotten to witness to previously, stopped on the patio to talk with us and asked him if he could shake her hand, and he lifted his left hand toward her. She said, "Maybe soon we can take you back on." I am not saying that at any moment we can ask questions and get a response. I don't feel he has the physical energy and sometimes just looks at me and I wonder what he is thinking and then guess what he needs. But there are many more times than previously that he does respond. I try to keep my requests for response to a minimum so as to not exert too much energy from him. I did joke with him last week that he is probably thinking, "Now my wife finally understands how hard it sometimes is for a husband to try to figure out what his wife is thinking."
There have been quite a few circumstances recently where it seemed to various people that he attempted to speak. Without the speaking valve attached, he would not be able to have an audible voice, but he tries to move the nerves around the lips ever so slightly. Again, there is a physical limitation and it is very minimum, but it's a try whereas before there was nothing. I requested once again to know whether we can begin to regularly put in the speaking valve. It's been very sporadic. I'd like to ask for it daily if they feel it safe to do so. The nurse practitioner is going to seek advice from his pulmonologist.
We have a daily checklist/schedule we use during "wake times." It includes many things, on being a video modeling program for speech that we were recommended to try from an outside source as well as viewing his previous sermons. The premise is that the video modeling will help the brain remember how to speak with the mouth the words that are there in the mind while refreshing the memory on forgotten words. The facility is full of people who seemingly understand what's going on but who can't speak.
Praise the Lord Pastor Esposito is also able to be in a wheel chair daily for 3 hours, which is very nice. We get to take him for a walk, or sit under a cool shade tree. This is prevents bedsores which can be very serious, and helps strengthen his lungs. The last couple weeks he has seemed a bit weak in his lungs and for a bit one side was swollen again (an explanation was never found for that other than one lung was holding more oxygen). He hadn't been coughing the mucus up as much as he was and has needed more suctioning. The last few days have seemed better. It's frightening to hear what pneumonia has done to many patients there who were on the road to recovery at one time. It seems to be the great downfall of many, and one of the main concerns of not swallowing and coughing adequately, besides being in a lying position for prolonged periods.
Our family would like to thank you once again for your faithful prayer for Pastor Esposito. Thank you also for cards and e-mails that encourage our hearts. As I listened to Philippians while driving recently, the verse where Paul said that his bonds were known in the palace and all other places stood out. In prison, Paul's part in ministry seemingly come to a halt. Word spread to "all other places". I thought of how the word of Pastor Esposito's illness has spread around the world and so very many people tell us of those who pray (many of whom we don't know) for him, our family, and church. Many follow the updates and listen to his preaching now via the church website, etc. My son Daniel told him one day that perhaps this has fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the Gospel (he didn't say those exact words) because many people now "know" him and are listening to his preaching and that his illness had stirred in many hearts a desire not to let the vision Pastor Esposito believed God gave him in many areas die.
Before you enter a deep trial, it's hard to imagine that you can thank God. It definitely is not easy to thank God when your heart breaks and you so deeply miss your best friend of 28 years; but I do praise Him for the many ways that He's allowed us to rejoice in suffering. Many times God has just opened my eyes for a split moment in given situations to say, "You prayed for this." Though I wouldn't have wanted the answer to prayer in this way, He is using this situation to work in many ways and accomplish things my husband and I both desired for HIM.
I had begun an update a couple days ago with my main praise being that we'd been lowering the Keppra level for seizures, and he'd not had any seizures. Last night when my oldest son Joseph and my youngest son Nathaniel were there, Pastor Esposito had a seizure. Please pray for wisdom in whether or not to return to previous levels, and/or the doctor would give approval to try a natural medication Dr. Paik gave us.
I don't think that I was one to want to "be in charge" in our marriage, though in all of us there are times we feel we know best. But I loved my husband's leadership. Our family and people would tell you that he has always been a very good leader. I miss that, and wish he could speak and give me direction. But please pray that I will trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not unto my own understanding (acknowledging Him in all ways) and He will direct our paths (right decisions for my husband's benefit and for God's glory.
Please pray the same for the leadership and people of Pacific Baptist Church. Prayer that we'd just keep on going faithfully and fulfill our theme for 2014—to Glorify God.
Thank you once again.
Mrs. Joe Esposito
"Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing instant in prayer"
Thank you so very much for your continued prayer for Pastor Esposito.
It has been a little over two weeks since the neurologist began to lower the seizure medication. For the first two weeks it was lowered from 1500 to 1000, and this week to 500. Please pray that there will be no seizures, and that he will have increased responsiveness. His next appointment with the neurologist will be in October, but will be with the neurologist he saw at the start last October. At that time we plan to ask approval to try some other natural things recommended to us.
The appointment for the physiatrist is still pending. The case manager asked, "Who ordered a physiatrist? We typically don't do that here." That was confirmation once again that it was God who directed the appointment with the neurosurgeon who ordered a physiatrist involvement. We pray the appointment will be approved and made in God's time with the right doctor and that we will receive helpful direction. At a conference on brain injury, the speaking physiatrist (in a session titled Why You Need a Physiatrist) spoke and encouraged families to be patient and not use up options too early without giving proper healing time. He also stated that more isn't always better. Sometimes it's time that is needed not a new treatment and that the old belief that if function isn't back by 6-12 months it will never return is not true. Improvement can happen for a long time with proper stimulation.
Thank you also for praying for the lungs, cough, and swallow. He has gotten much better at clearing his throat himself and is back to infrequent suctioning. We even were able to experiment on Tuesday with the speaking valve, and today will try it again. He did have to be suctioned several times while wearing it, but hopefully it will get better. A patient begins with a trach with a small balloon inflated in the throat. First, the balloon is deflated allowing some air to go through the nose and mouth, but breathing is still mainly in and out through the trach. This was done some time ago. When the valve is placed, the patient breathes in through the trach but out through the mouth and nose (and vocal cords). While the valve is on they aren't able to cough into the trach. If fluid is heard, it is removed by suction to prevent secretions from going into the lungs. Please continue to pray that Pastor will be able to have a strong cough and swallow. This would be really a big step forward. His swallow reflex has improved a lot as well; though sometimes isn't automatic. For example when having his teeth brushed, we ask him to swallow. He does so (a step for which to praise the Lord), but not on his own sometimes.
Here is a picture Cindy Yu took of Pastor Esposito. She had told him that she knew she was talking too much; but when he gets well he will talk, and she will be quiet and listen. She captured a smile on camera. God is good to always encourage us with hope!
Sometimes it's easy to not want to allow yourself to hope, but Scripture says, "Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation."
Mrs. Joe Esposito
"Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation, continuing instant in prayer"
After transporting Pastor Esposito to the neurologist to be told they don't see patients on gurneys (the third transport mistake in the last two weeks). The doctor was kind enough to lock the waiting room, and see us in the waiting room. He agreed it was safe to try lowering the seizure medications little by little. He declined comment on the items recommended by the nutritionist (the facility doctor felt one of them might interfere with the seizure medication and asked me to confer with the neurologist), stating that he isn't trained in that area and doesn't know enough about them to recommend them which is understandable. For now, I am going to take this as from the Lord and see what happens with the other being reduced. There is still an appointment pending with the neurologist who saw Pastor back in the beginning at the first hospital. I hope to have more information to present and see if he will look at it and give an opinion at that time as to whether it would be okay to try along with whatever he is taking at the time. I have been recommended many different things by many different people. I want to try anything that potentially the Lord could have sent my way, but I also want to be safe and not try to be a doctor, since I am not. I don't want to cause other problems by causing contradictions. I am thankful that the facility doctor has been very open minded while being reasonably cautious.
The doctor didn't spend more than half a minute looking at Pastor Esposito since it took so long figuring out how he'd see him at all or if we'd need to reschedule. But I am thankful for the prospect of lowering the Keppra. That has been a prayer, we just wanted a doctor's okay. Please pray it goes well and that it helps him not to be so tired and weak.
Thank you so much for praying. Thank you to the Pacific Baptist Church family for staying faithful. What a blessing and encouragement that is to our family! (Tuesday night we were encouraged by the crowd out soul winning in the middle of summer—an average of 200 over the last few weeks.)
Yesterday Pastor Esposito's appointment was actually a follow up with the surgeon who did the surgery a couple weeks ago, not the neurology appointment. The doctor said he looked very much better than when he'd seen him, and seemed to be healing well. Tomorrow is the appointment with the neurologist who saw him at the hospital and did the EEG. This isn't the appointment the neurosurgeon requested—that is still pending as well as the visit to a physiatrist (not psychiatrist). I do plan to ask about potentially lessening the seizure medication. Pastor Esposito did have a few moments the other day of what I called a tremor throughout his whole body, but the nurse felt it was probably muscle spasm.
There are also two types of natural medications (maybe that's an oxymoron) recommended to me by Dr. Streeter from Hammond. The general doctor at the facility gave me permission today for those to be used, however told me that I need to talk with the neurologist tomorrow as she was concerned as to the interference with the seizure medication. I also was given another natural medication to prevent seizures by Dr. Paik from our church. I had hoped to replace the seizure medication with what he had given me (though he made sure I understood not to just drop the seizure medication but to gradually reduce it but to go ahead and add the other.)
Thank you for your continued prayer. Pastor Esposito finished his antibiotic for pneumonia but won't be tested for another week. Tomorrow, Monday the 30th, he will see the neurologist who saw him recently while in the hospital and ordered an EEG while there. Please pray that this appointment goes well. He has been a bit sleepy since surgery, but that is to be expected. As for what's new, his right hand, leg and foot seem to be having more movement, though still slight.
Thank God for continued small signs of His working. God is good, all the time.
PRAISE THE LORD! Pastor Esposito had an appointment today with the neurosurgeon. This was a follow up to the placing of the shunt. I had been praying that by this appointment the surgeon would see progress and that God would be glorified. Before leaving via medical transport in the morning, I explained to Pastor Esposito that the doctor he was going to see was, humanly speaking, the doctor that had saved his life the first night he went into the hospital. I also explained that it would be really neat if he could see that he's getting better, and I asked if he'd please respond where the doctor asked him to do so. (This is the same doctor who had given us the very bad news the first night, as well as one of the doctors who discouraged the surgery to remove the AVM. Also the doctor who said we could try the shunt.)
We arrived in the room – my husband on the gurney inside a small room. Last time we transported him there, the doctor hadn't even checked him at all, but to say he could only offer the shunt. Anyway, he said hello to my husband, who turned his eyes toward the doctor. Dr. Spears said that was good, and "If you can hear me, please close your eyes." Immediately Pastor Esposito closed his eyes, and the doctor told him he could open them. He then put two fingers above my husband and asked him to track his fingers from side to side, which he did. (He's only done that once or twice for me all the way across.) The doctor asked me if he can move his hands and fingers. I said yes, and he put up two fingers and asked, "Can you give me two fingers?" I thought "No, he definitely can't do that." Then he mustered all his strength as if trying to lift his left hand, and lifted up his thumb and forefinger. Dr. Spears surprisingly said, "He's definitely trying." Then he talked with me a bit and then asked my husband, "Do you remember the old Virginia Slims commercial, 'You've come a long way baby'? Do you remember that?" At that my husband raised his eyebrow. We talked a bit more and then he asked Pastor to give him "thumbs up." His left thumb which he moves more often quivered, but the right thumb went clearly up—another thing that doesn't typically happen. The most is that when I've asked him to move the right side fingers, you see the nerves trying but unable.
This was clearly God enabling as he never has followed so many commands all in a row like this. And it was especially exciting to me that Dr. Spears was the doctor today. My husband has been responding in lots of these ways occasionally, but this was God's timing to do it all at once for the doctor. The doctor seemed pleasantly surprised. From this meeting, Dr. Spears asked me who the physiatrist is and I had said that there wasn't one, and also who the neurologist is, and again one has not been seeing him. He said that he is definitely responding and there needs to be stimulation and some rehab to help bring him out. He repeated that he doesn't know how much potential there is but that there is potential. He also asked me if he had gone to a neuro rehab or directly to subacute care. The latter is the case. He put in an order for an appointment to both a physiatrist and a neurologist. He said he needs to be evaluated and receive rehab if he's going to go further.
A couple days ago I responded to a text someone sent me with "God's will, God's way, God's time." What happened today is what we have hoped. For the first time, we received reinforcement that something proactive needs to be done (though we have definitely tried to be proactive ourselves). I couldn't have orchestrated it in a better way. Now we have direct orders from Dr. Spears for both of the doctors we wanted involved.
Please pray for those two appointments, God's continued direction, and wisdom going forward. There are several places that specialize in neuro-rehab, but up to this point they had told me "not yet." I kept impatiently trying to find more answers, and seeking for something new, and it kept seeming that God was telling me I wanted but it wasn't time for. Each time He'd have to quiet me down, in a sense, and give me contentment where we were until He opened other doors. Quite a few times it was as if I had to take my Isaac again and lay him down to wait. How many, many times have I whispered to my husband, "Trust in the Lord…and wait patiently for Him".
Of course there is a very, very long way to go, and we don't know exactly what the future holds. But for today, I just want to thank the Lord for showing HIMSELF STRONG in the midst of our great weakness and for giving us a renewed glimpse of His hope.
Thank you for praying so faithfully.
The Esposito Family
P.S. Thank you to Bro. Clayton Shumpert for such an encouraging message to our church Sunday night.
Pastor Esposito is doing much better. His heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen levels are good. His white blood cell count is coming down. Today, he will be discharged from the hospital to return to Huntington Valley Healthcare Center on continued antibiotics for remaining infections. Praise God for the apparent seizure (it hasn't been able to be confirmed whether it was or wasn't an actual seizure) which at first so discouraged us as it was probably the trigger that ended up saving his life at this point and causing us to know that there was a much more serious hidden problem. Had it not been for that seizure and blood drawn, we wouldn't have known how high the white blood cell count was, and possibly would have treated the other symptoms as a flu or something not really knowing the urgency or seriousness of the situation, nor the pain he was facing. Thank God for His blessings in disguise. We're reminded once again that God sees the storm from the other side! As one of our children stated, "God is teaching me to trust Him sooner!" (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Pastor Esposito's surgery went well last night. Praise the Lord for one single verse of Scripture that gave us peace about surgery when we were wavering on it. The doctor came out and said the gallbladder already had become gangrene. This explains how very sick he was. Praise the Lord all went well! This morning he is resting peacefully, and his numbers are all very good. It is obvious he is feeling much better.
Today we will receive results of the EEG and CT Scan relating to seizure. More labs were taken this morning as well. There will also be a couple more tests today to make sure there is no other blockage or infection in the digestive system. Also, we are told some pneumonia remains and potentially the lungs are partially collapsed at the bottom (I don't completely understand yet.). Please pray for this to clear up finally.
Thank you for praying faithfully and being a great blessing to our family and church. May God bless you abundantly.
Mrs. Joe Esposito
Praise the Lord for His goodness!
Pastor Esposito has been hospitalized. He has a urinary track infection, an inflamed gallbladder, a fever with cold sweat, and what seems to have been a seizure. Also, his blood pressure and heart rate are high. An EEG is being done. He may potentially have surgery for his gallbladder.
Please pray for Pastor Esposito. He had a moderate seizure late this afternoon. (We had high hopes to begin weaning off the seizure medication next week. God has other plans, so we will continue to trust Him.)
Thank you once again for reading Pastor Esposito's updates and for continuing to pray. The culture for pneumonia was positive, and he has just completed a series of powerful antibiotics and multiple lab tests. An x-ray will be repeated this week. We also had the CT scan done and received results, which we will take to the Neurosurgeon June 16th. The report reads "There is mild decrease in ventricular size since the previous exam. No intracranial hemorrhage. Previously described changes within the right cerebral hemisphere appears stable." Any decrease is good—praise the Lord. This week ultrasound was done to try to figure out why there has been swelling on one side of the chest. We have not received results yet.
Here are a few changes we have noticed:
· Pastor Esposito has been swallowing more often. Thank you for continuing to pray specifically for this.
· He has begun to look in a downward and upward position, which previously he had not done.
· Staff has begun to notice alertness whereas only family noticed it before
· He attempted to stick out his tongue for Dr. Paik, from our church, as well as for me when I offered him a lick of mango and ice cream.
I must admit after 8 months that my mind goes in many directions when I contemplate what to type as an update. Sometimes I wait for something "new" to share, and often we are just thankful for "stable", and the prayer requests remain the same.
Sometimes I hesitate to mention little things because they don't move Pastor Esposito to any new "levels" and I'm sure some who understand brain injury wonder if we are blind to facts or not being realistic or whether we understand fully how unpredictable (or unlikely in the perspective of some), or at best - simply slow recovery is when brain damage is concerned. Of course we do, we've listened to the doctors from the start; read and researched signs and symptoms, etc. We realistically keep in mind that he had a rupture, very severe hemorrhage, as well as stroke, long term coma, and remaining damage and that we left the hospital with a worst case prognosis. Nor do we forget we've been told that recovery can stop at any point.
Then we hear testimonials of a man who was brain dead and now plays basketball. One who was supposed to be removed from life support but the family waited one more week and his fingers moved. Then by two years later had almost full recovery. Then we hear of another man whose family was being asked to donate organs, he later spoke at a brain injury conference. Or the 15 year old girl in a severe accident, declared dead on the sight because her brain virtually split. She also spoke at the same conference. And yet another lady who had a severe bleed andin a coma heard the doctors discussing the fact she'd not make it. She later wrote a book telling how it felt like she was in a "glass coffin." Of course these give some sense of hope.
Then there's the Brain research side of things—new studies on the "plasticity of the brain." This basically is a premise that the brain has the ability to heal and also that parts of the brain can make up where others are damaged with proper stimulation. It also throws out old theories that if the brain hasn't awaken or healed in 6 months, it never will (Perhaps it never did, because people believed it never could and so never tried.).
Once all these thoughts have spun around in my mind, and I've prayed, God reminds me of the same truths once again. That God is good! It is God who has designed the brain so wonderfully complex. This is the reason why man is still searching to understand it. (I never liked science, but it really is pretty amazing to study.) That God is still in control, no matter what medical or scientific "facts" we choose to believe. That He alone is the Great Physician, and ANY healing will be according to His will, and in His timing. That He alone is our only real hope.
So in the mean time, we will praise HIM for every "mild" change he allows. (Psalm 106:1) Praise ye the LORD. O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.
Please continue to pray for a great Miracle "That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the Lord hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it." (Isaiah 41:20)
As I sit at the foot of Pastor Esposito's bed I wanted to take a moment to thank the Lord for His goodness. It's easy to be impatient and focus on what is not happening rather than praising God for what He has done and is doing—rather than trusting in the Lord and waiting patiently for HIM. I was thinking how MANY of the patients here very often are taken back in and out of the hospital—as it is very easy for trach patients to develop pneumonia. The man in the next bed said he'd had pneumonia 18 times and had his "last rights" read to him thrice. He was sent back to the hospital again not doing very well. Please pray for him, his name is Larry – we witnessed to him a couple times. He didn't get saved yet. Praise the Lord since Pastor Esposito was released from the hospital in November, his only re-admittance to the hospital was to have the shunt placed. His health has been very stable. We also thank the Lord that Pastor is being allowed to be lifted into a chair four times per week now for several hours. Soon he will be increased to daily. He was having swelling in the feet when in the chair, and that seems to have improved greatly.
Please pray for the following:
I also would like to praise the Lord for allowing me 28 wonderful years married to Pastor Joe Esposito, as our anniversary is this Saturday. How many ladies have had the privilege of a long and blessed marriage as I have had? I told the Lord the first night Pastor was in surgery that He'd given us 27 great years and if He chose to take him home that night – how could I complain? Here is the card I have sitting on my desk which I intend to read to him on Father's Day (I haven't chosen an anniversary card yet):
"For My Husband with Love"
If I could go back in time, would I do it all over again?
Would I take the bad with the good, the tears with the laughter, the hurts with the joys
Even though things aren't always perfect, I wouldn't trade one minute of our life together…
And if I could go back in time, I wouldn't hesitate for a second to do it all over again – with you.
Happy Fathers' Day –
I Love YOU
Thank you to the hundreds and maybe thousands of people who have been praying for Pastor Esposito, our church, and our family. We know that many of you do not even know our church or family, but have been praying; and we thank you. We also thank the many friends (long-time and new) who have been following the updates and praying.
We thought that this video would be a blessing to many. For 25 years Pacific Baptist Church has had a vision to see the next generation raised up for Christ, our city won, and laborers trained to plant churches both here in California and the "uttermost parts of the earth." Pastor Esposito felt that God gave him the vision of seeing our new building used to help us do that in a greater way. This video was played at our recent Dinner Series in preparation for our Offering Sunday on May 18th. It recaps what God has done in the last 25 years and the dream for which Pastor Esposito hoped, prayed, and worked.
We pray it is a blessing to you!
We wanted to share a brief specific prayer request. The respiratory therapist today said they would experiment in placing the speaking valve on Pastor Esposito. This makes it so that he breathes in from the trach and is still on the oxygen, but is forced to breathe out from his mouth/nose. The hope was that he would do well on this over the weekend and then try it capped at the first part of the week. However, he looked distressed, and it was taken off and the mucus in the throat had gathered at the entrance of the valve—needing to be suctioned. The RT said that he can't continue if he won't cough it up when there is mucus in the throat as he'd surely end up with pneumonia. He then decided to just put it on temporarily for a bit to hopefully help him to progress a little, but only when we are there for periods during the day.
Please pray specifically for his cough and swallow reflexes to improve. It would be a HUGE step for him.
Thank you very much for continuing to pray for a miracle for Pastor Esposito and for checking the update page. We continue to see small signs at different times that Pastor Esposito is cognizant of his surroundings, and though inconsistent—new small changes. His awareness comes and goes. When asked to say "comb" yesterday, he tried hard to lip it. You may ask him multiple times in a day and not get a response; but we thank the Lord when he does and can tell it is intentional. We are going to talk with the neurosurgeon about potentially removing some of the medication that would make him tired and weak. They had said to revisit it at 6 months, and it has been just about 7 months now since the first day. We are also considering moving him closer to home.
We returned to the Huntington Valley Healthcare Center to be discouraged the first week by little wake time (in contrast to much in the hospital) and little responsiveness to therapists (again a contrast to the first week in the hospital). Therapy withdrew again. The last couple weeks have been more encouraging. His eyes moved back and forth when the Bible was placed before him. While taking him on a walk in the wheelchair April 8th, I asked, "Can you see that bird up in the tree?" He looked all the way up and watched the bird. He has begun to help pull his legs up and press down when we ask him to participate during exercises. I kissed him one day and asked, "Can you kiss me back?" The nerves in his lips crinkled. He did the same when I asked for a goodbye. For the first time the doctor noticed his tracking. We praise God for what I call little miracles, and continue to pray for a big miracle while believing "He (God) giveth to all life, and breath, and all things" (Acts 17:25) And we choose daily to surrender all and accept that He knows best…because "Truly God is good." (Psalm 73:1) And we "rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him."
Thank you for your continued prayer! It means the world to us.
P.S. I think maybe we misquoted the numbers for the coma scale on the previous update, but either way it was an improvement. (There are various scales used to rate comas.)
We thank you for your patience in our delays in posting. Thank you for your continued faithful prayer for Pastor Esposito and encouragement to us. Here is a recap of the last two weeks including the surgery:
What we know:
Specific Prayer Requests:
Good Afternoon. This is a quick update on Pastor Esposito's condition as of today. He is currently still at Long Beach Memorial Hospital.
Thank you very much for continuing to pray for Pastor Esposito. We continue to ask the Lord for a miracle.
Pastor Esposito is currently staying at Long Beach Memorial Hospital for recovery from surgery and monitoring. He will be discharged on Sunday, if there isn't anything that prevents or changes it. Some simple updates are below:
Thank you so much for praying for the surgery, as well as for our family and church family. Please continue to pray for a miracle, and most of all, that the Lord might be glorified through it all.
By His Grace,
The Esposito Family
A few days before the surgery, Pastor Esposito went to Long Beach Memorial for a CT scan. The Ct scan showed that there hadn't been improvement in fluid build up, but did show that there was not hydrocephalus. It did show softening of some tissue where the fluid was being retained as well as some enlargement. Also seen was some tissue damage in the central part where the two sides of the brain connect. There is no bleeding and no new damage seen. Please pray for continued healing- and of course for a miracle from the great physician.
Today Pastor Esposito had his CT scan in preparation for Thursday's surgery to place a shunt to drain fluid from the brain. Please pray for good results on the CT scan, and for the surgery. Specifically:
As far as the potential seizure, labs were done to verify that the anti—seizure medication levels were accurate, and they came back good. Nothing else was done to verify it was in fact a seizure, and the medications are still elevated. We are pursuing that with the neurosurgeon who will do the surgery this Thursday. We dropped off the cd's today to him….and mentioned this to the nurse. We expect a call tomorrow.
We praise the Lord still for small little signs of cognizance and for continued general health and stability. We praise the Lord for the staff and people of Pacific Baptist Church who have just kept on going faithfully for the Lord and in so doing encourage our hearts! We also thank the Lord for showing us His love in so many ways through HIS wonderful people across the country and around the world. Thank you so much for your continued prayer.
In His Hands,
The Esposito Family
Good evening, and thank you for your continued prayers for Pastor Esposito. This evening, we have a special prayer request, as one of the nursing staff called and informed us that they believe Pastor Esposito had a seizure this evening. They walked in and saw that he was shaking and had hunched a little over to his side. This is shortly after one of the nurses had asked him to blink twice if he was in discomfort or pain, to which he responded with two blinks. They have currently increased his dosage of seizure medication, and will be monitoring him through the night, as well as doing blood work in the morning. Please pray for his health and continued improvement, for wisdom for the medical staff, and his upcoming surgery, and that the Lord might be glorified through everything that is done. Thank you once again for your prayer, support, and encouragement. Have a good night.
Surgery has been rescheduled for March 13th. Pastor Esposito will be admitted to Long Beach Memorial Medical center on March 12th for CT scan and discussion with the doctor. Our prayer would be that there would be significant improvement such that they would determine surgery is not necessary; however, the doctor doesn’t expect the hydrocephalus to be corrected without surgery.
Having read 245 pages of the 6140 page chart from the initial 40 days at the hospital we are reminded of God’s miraculous power thus far. We read statements like, “barely alive” or that he wasn’t expected to make it off the operating table the first night. We read “poor prognosis” and that all signs, symptoms, stroke scales, coma scores, etc. pointed toward a worst case scenario for recovery. Then we sit in the room or walk around the property with Pastor Esposito placed in a wheel chair to change positions and get some sunshine and fresh air or talk with him in the room…and are reminded that everything up to today has been God’s sustaining power. And we thank Him for all He has done and continue to pray for continued miracles. Pastor Esposito shows what we believe to be (I always add that since doctors don’t consider anything significant until he responds consistently to specific requests and that this could only be a permanently vegetative state) little improvements week by week. He has begun to turn his head slightly, and tries to nod occasionally. He moves his legs some reflexively toward his body perhaps in response to discomfort – but he moves them. His face has small hints of expression, and we have asked him to smile on a couple of occasions and have seen the slightest bit of a nerve moving in his lip, slight - yet it is distinct. He definitely is able to turn his eyes and head toward visitors. Yesterday I put on “Someone is Praying for You” and a tear rolled down his cheek. I spoke with him about needing specific response so that we can get to the point of removing the trach and going home. He instantly and quickly turned his head (to the right which he typically doesn’t do) to give me what we call an intent look (we have all had those moments with him where he seems “right there with us”). Last night our youngest son sat by him in his bed with a video on and as they watched together, Nathaniel said, “Two tears rolled down Dad’s cheek. Mom, I remember in the hospital when he couldn’t open his eyes at all.” As our granddaughter was there yesterday on her birthday, we told Grandpa she is now two years old. He looked at her and opened his mouth as if to say, “Wow, where has the time gone?” So while we listen to the caution of the doctors not to have too high of expectations (under the circumstances), we continue to pray to our God of miracles, and remember that everything we have is a miracle already. Being “in this place” is a miracle. And we praise and thank Him for what He HAS done. And we trust in His will, knowing that He knows best. And we follow Him day by day, holding His hand and allowing Him to carry us through to the place where HE chooses.
Mrs. Joe Esposito
Pastor's shunt procedure is scheduled for February 26th. Please pray for the operation and for Dr. Szper who will be performing the surgery. Thank you for your continual prayer!
Tuesday, Jan. 4th I met with the neurosurgeon once again about going forward with the surgery to place a shunt to drain fluid from Pastor Esposito’s brain. We are in the process of scheduling the surgery. The ventricular cavities of his brain are enlarged, leading the doctor to believe that there is hydrocephalus – meaning the fluid in the brain is not flowing properly. The purpose of the shunt would be to try to correct the flow, prevent further damage, and perhaps allow more improvement. (As always he made sure to remind me not to have high expectations since there are no promises.)
We will post an update when we know the scheduled date for the surgery.
Two weeks ago the doctor thought perhaps there was pneumonia. The x-ray was clear, but another was scheduled since they heard something abnormal. Last week the x-ray, I was told, showed everything was fine. Today they came and said they were there to do x-ray again. Later a nurse came in to give me the results. He said, “The x-ray is much better than last week, and so we don’t think there is infection and the lung is not collapsed.” In spite of occasionally being a little frustrated with communication, we are very thankful Pastor is in a place where they are quick to check up on things like this and follow up. Please pray for continued good health of the lungs.
Thank you for continuing to pray with us. Pray for a miracle “That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the LORD hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel has created it.” Isaiah 41:20
Mrs. Joe Esposito
Thank you for praying for Pastor Esposito and Pacific Baptist Church. God has been very good to us. He has brought us a very long way. Please continue to pray for a miracle, as we have a very long way to go.
As best we can tell from our research, Pastor Esposito is in what is called a minimally conscious state. Sometimes his actions/reactions seem to fluctuate between what looks vegetative and what seems to be minimally conscious. There are times it seems very clear that he is "with us" and other times it seems more of a distant stare or unawareness. There really are no real answers doctors can give at this point. (After a stroke, someone not "awake" and most of all interactive is labeled as permanently vegetative after 12 months. With drowning or some other types of trauma, it is after 3 months. Brain research and the ability of the brain to heal is something that doctors do not yet fully understand. We've done a LOT of research, and find that medical science is only at the edge of understanding the complexity with which God made the human brain. In fact, the state of being minimally conscious is a relatively new understanding of brain injury. We do find a multitude of testimonials of folks who continued to improve for many years in spite of doctors predicting otherwise.)
For now it is a matter of the verse that I quote in my husband's ear over and over, "Trust in the Lord and wait patiently for Him". And all the while we pray and beg God for a miracle, we seek any tips we can find on helping someone in his state. My husband used to quote "work as if it all depends on you, and pray as if it all depends upon God (and it does)". We do many things.…exercise him three times per day, use ice to try to provoke movement, show him many pictures, allow him to watch himself preach online, use massage we were taught may help brain fluid, read/play Scripture, play music, give him fish oil, allow him to smell scents, use alkaline water, give a brain formula of vitamins, use a brain training program online, and so forth. Anything we can find that might help, we incorporate into his daily schedule. During his limited "awake" time, we try to squeeze in everything we can fit in that may cause the neurons in the brain to reconnect, and when he closes his eyes, we let him sleep as undisturbed as possible, since sleep is vital to healing. (This is one reason we have limited visits for the time being, though we plan to schedule visits again in the near future.)
One blessing has been to be able to lift Pastor Esposito into a wheel chair twice per week and take him outside (as long as we stay nearby in case of need for suctioning the lungs, and as long as we take oxygen along). On Thursday, while outside, he was holding his head up for a while and turning his head and eyes slightly side to side. Many of the staff along the hall commented that he looked much better than when he first came. Please pray for his circulation. When in the chair his feet have a tendency to turn deep purple, and so we have to watch closely and elevate/massage as soon as that begins or put him back in the bed. Hopefully as time goes by and he is up more, circulation will improve.
Thank you all for your prayers. Please forgive us for not posting updates more frequently, but we want to thank you for checking the website and for continuing to pray. God really has been good to us. We are thankful for the opportunity to grow in faith in our Father who loves us so, and we pray as is our church theme this year that He alone would be glorified.
Recently we talked with the Dr. at the healthcare center who sees Pastor Esposito. She reviewed the CT Scan. Praise the Lord she said that there has been a decrease in swelling since the last scan before leaving the hospital following the last surgery. She did, however tell us that there is still an area of drainage. Please pray for complete healing of all swelling/drainage around the brain.
We have been asked by many folks when we are going to take Pastor Esposito home. We are very eager to take him home, but there are many considerations:
· No medical staff/doctors have yet brought up the possibility that it is time to take him home, in fact they all discourage it at this point, though I have asked questions regarding what steps we would need to take to be ready to do so when the time comes.
· Pastor Esposito had three major brain surgeries in the last three month period.
· There is still drainage in his brain
· He was released from the hospital to a skilled nursing, sub acute center, not a regular convalescent/nursing home. Here they specialize in the types of care he needs.
· There are trained Respiratory Therapists who drain the lungs regularly, change the trach tube leading into his throat, etc.
· A pulmonologist regularly monitors him since pneumonia is very common with coma/stroke patients in his state (he had pneumonia already while in the hospital, and it was difficult to cure with a weakened immune system)
· Labs/cultures are regularly taken to insure there is no infection. There would be no other way of knowing of infections since he is not able to communicate.
· A medical doctor is on hand and sees him a minimum of twice per week to check basic health and is always available. For example two days ago, one eye was swollen up. So we called a nurse in to request treatment.
· Another staff member is the treatment nurse who specifically cares for skin issues. Pressure sores are very common with patients who are completely immobile. These can develop quickly, and can become very serious, even fatal when not treated quickly. Last week Pastor Esposito was covered in large hives – some type of allergic reaction. That was immediately treated.
· One doctor said his immunity is too low for him to feel comfortable with his going home. Illnesses must be caught and treated immediately
· One doctor (I am sure intending to scare me) stated that if he potentially could drown himself in his own fluids if not properly cared for and watched 24/7
· If/when Pastor Esposito improves significantly enough, being in this center would offer daily rehab three times per day (PT, OT, ST). At home, a PT would come only twice per week.
· The above points are not to mention the more minor details of daily physical care (which often require two staff at once):
So at this time, it doesn’t seem practical to think that we have the capability of doing what all of these trained professionals are able to do, and what Pastor Esposito’s present health requires. When the doctors feel confident that he is strong enough to go home and doesn’t need specialized care beyond our abilities, and encourage us to do so, we will be very happy. It breaks our hearts to have him away from home. (One of the hardest days of my life was the first night I had to go home and leave him there. I had spent 40 nights sleeping in Memorial Hospital by his side. But none of the skilled nursing centers we researched allow overnight stays.) So for now we must not let our impatience cause us to make decisions that aren’t best. Please pray with us that the day will come quickly that we are able to take him home, but we won’t do so until it is what’s medically best for him…and I suppose the doctors will help us to know when that time comes and the Lord will give us peace about doing so.
Specific prayer requests that will bring us closer to that day:
· For complete healing of all draining/swelling around the brain
· For responsive consciousness (though he opens his eyes periodically he is not considered “awake”)
· That he could properly breath and learn to swallow without a trach
· For movement in his entire body
· For speech or at least for now some form of consistent means of communication
· That he would no longer need supplemental oxygen
Please also pray for wisdom and guidance on our part. On Pastor Esposito’s part, please continue to pray for a miracle from the Lord. Once again a doctor this week reminded me of this very small percentage of patients who have gone through what Pastor Esposito has gone through (AVM rupture, aneurism, stroke, long term coma, three brain surgeries) and are in the state he is in and recover. With brain injury, it is not thought to be just a matter of time for healing as with other illnesses/surgeries. Healing can stop at any point, and in 90% of patients does. We believe God is able; please continue to pray with us for that miracle.
We would like to thank the many, many folks across the country and around the world who have prayed and have encouraged our family the last three months. God has showered us with His love through you.
Though progress is very slow, we thank the Lord that we still continue to see small little hints of progress. Pastor Esposito seemed to nod slightly twice yesterday. His eyes definitely are focusing. He looked at his granddaughter as we held her on each side of the bed this New Years Eve(ning). Since yesterday, he is also making a slight expression by raising his eyebrow on his left side.
Please continue to pray that God will give us a miracle. Also for wisdom in making several decisions on his care, including placing a shunt. Please pray for God's direction as sometimes it seems that no one is specifically, regularly giving us any guidance medically.
Thank you again!
Here is a picture we took with our dad on Christmas Eve. He is able to go outside some now. Though he's not "awake" and "responsive" (two very subjective terms, as we've come to learn), it's nice to be able to spend time with and sing to and talk to him. As we sang for him, a big tear rolled down his cheek.
We don't know if, how, or to what extent our dad will recover. Only God knows. But, we rejoice and praise the Lord for the progress we've seen. Though we don't know what the future holds, we know Who holds the future. We pray our dad continues to improve, but in the mean time, and regardless, we pray that we learn the lessons God wants us to learn through this trial, and that we'd be the stewards of it as He wants.
Thank you again for praying!
-The Esposito Family
Pastor Esposito had his follow up appointment with the Neurosurgeon Monday. The doctor said that based upon what he sees in the CT scan as well as seeing him for the first time since the surgery Oct. 30th, we could consider possibly putting in a permanent shunt to drain fluid from the brain. This potentially could help us to see some improvement. The doctors are quick to remind us as they have all along that they can make no promises, won't give an opinion for or against it, and that there are no text book answers when it comes to neurology….that we may see minimal change, significant change, or no change at all. Perhaps one of the hardest parts of this trial is the fact that doctors can give no prediction of what will be, no time frames, no answers, no recommendations, advice, or opinions, and they intentionally give no hope so as to not give a false hope. And so we continue to pray for a miracle and to trust in the Lord Who is the GREAT PHYSICIAN that HIS WILL will be done. And we realize that HE alone is our hope.
Lest I sound negative (I don't mean to, only to share honestly what the doctors say because that is one of the most asked questions, "what are the doctors saying?"), I'd like to share a praise page I began in my journal a couple days ago as I thanked Him for how far He has brought us thus far:
• My husband is alive; when at first the doctors only promised to TRY to save his life.
• My husband is now AVM free, never to worry about this happening again.
• The doctor said his brain is not “all stroked out.”
• The doctor said his brain stem is not damaged.
• His bone flap is replaced in his skull.
• He is breathing without a respirator.
• After over a month of watching the blood pressure monitor, and wondering if he’d have a heart attack from the extremely high b.p., his blood pressure is consistently normal and healthy on its own.
• After fighting high fever, due to the fact that his body couldn’t regulate temperature, and after being wrapped in ice for over a month…his temperature has been stable for a while now.
• After fighting pneumonia for weeks, the pulmonologist said his lungs sound good.
• The balloon in his tracheotomy has been deflated.
• That his eyes open at times; and appear to have some sight.
• That his feet and hands have some movement (whether reflex or not they are not totally paralyzed).
• That God has given us weakness that we may find our strength in Him.
• For giving us hurt that we may find He is our Comforter.
• For using the great void in our hearts and lives to draw us closer Himself and to one another.
• For teaching us to both to pray more, and to learn better how to pray.
• For reminding us that though often His ways are not our ways, Romans 8:28 is still true and He does have purpose in all He does….and all He does is good. Matthew. 7:11
• For reminding us of a million “little lessons” like:
The verse my husband and I always claimed as sort of a life verse still holds true, that God has done exceeding abundantly above all we could ask or think. God has been good.
Thank you for your continued prayer. Please pray for wisdom and direction from the Lord as we make the decision on the shunt.
-Mrs. Joe Esposito
Pastor will be taken back to Long Beach Memorial for a check up with the surgeon, Dr. Pak, tomorrow at about 2:00 PM.
Dr. Pak was the one who originally suggested against the surgery and said, "What's the use?" Please pray that he sees improvement and that the Lord would be glorified, as Dr. Pak knows that we trusted what God could do in choosing to go forward with surgery.
Thank you for praying. God is good.
Here's an email response to a family member who emailed Mrs. Esposito, "…How was Joe's CT scan…":
It was great. I told him we were going on our first date since he was sick =)… I told him we'd been on a deep sea boat fishing, a helicopter (to Catalina)...but this was the first time we got to ride together in an ambulance to the hospital!
It was a beautiful sunny day, and when we got to the imaging center for his 11:00 appointment, they informed us that there was no technician on duty yesterday, so we'd be going to the hospital. SO… we actually walked with his ambulance stretcher a little ways outside to the hospital. His eyes were open…the first time his eyes have seen sun light since October 3rd… I thought it was neat for him to get fresh air and see the sun. He did great.
They send a RT along, but she never needed to do anything to him. He coughed here and there, but never needed her suctioning.
Thank you for asking…we will get the results at his Monday appointment.
Please continue to pray for next week's appointment with the neurosurgeon, that Pastor will continue to heal and progress, and that he will respond to specific commands. Thank you for your continued prayer!
Our family was asked to put this together for a thanksgiving service for a church in AZ. The emphasis was to be thankful for those placed in our lives while we have them with us. We have been asked if we would share it on the web site. We pray that it will be a blessing to you. Thank you for your continued prayer and support for our family and church during this time. God is good!
Pastor seems to be moving his hands and feet more.
There is not much change since the last update except that we are waiting for the results of some labs to see if there is an infection. Pastor Esposito has been on antibiotics and thankfully his counts are going down.
Please continue to pray for the requests posted in the last update.
Your prayer is greatly appreciated!
Thank you for your prayer and support for the Esposito family and Pastor Esposito specifically.
Please continue to pray for these requests:
Please pray for wisdom for the family in decision making. Also, please pray for God's will and leading in gaining permission to try some natural alternative treatments over the next couple of days.
Though God is not on an insurance timetable, please pray for some response to command before the ten day period is over (Friday). If they don't see specific response before then, they will discontinue certain therapies until they see response.
Thank you for your continued prayer!
Pastor's lungs are much better! This past week, he swallowed and moved his hand when ice was applied. The physical therapists are aggressively working with him, sitting him up and stimulating him. Please pray he wakes up. Pray for continued healing of the brain and of the damage from the AVM rupture.
Thank you for your continued prayers!
It's day 40, and pastor is being transferred today from the hospital to a sub-accute skilled nursing facility. Thank you for your continued prayers, and please pray for a smooth transition and continued healing for pastor Esposito.
Dear Family and Friends,
Our family would like to thank you for your many prayers, cards, letters of encouragement, e-mails, texts, gifts, calls, meals. God is so very good to shower us with the love of so many people from literally all around the world.
Much has happened since our last update, so let me update everyone as to what has happened over the last few days. Last Wednesday an angiogram and MRI were done. Immediately following the angiogram one of the doctors who did the procedure told us that they believed that a very small vessel was left. He said, however that Dr. Pak (who had done the surgery) would review it in the morning and tell us how significant it was, and what would need to be done.
The following day the doctor told us that the vessel was very small and that typically would disappear within six months and that they would monitor it. He said that they did see swelling and would need to monitor the swelling until this coming week before he'd be moved to a sub acute nursing facility. When I asked him what the MRI showed, he said it didn't show any deeper damage (remember they had said after surgery that the brain on the surface did not look "all stroked out") and that there was no damage to the brain stem. This is very good news.
Saturday the 9th, the specialty team from UCLA reviewed the angiogram and said in fact the entire AVM had been removed. (more good news) At this point the doctor signed for his release. (Insurance is pushing hard for his release.)
Sunday, 11/10, he moved his head for the first time, and he also moved his legs some. (Though he is still in a coma). It was decided that he would not be moved today because his fever rose. They did a chest x-ray that was clear of pneumonia, which he previously had. They also did other tests looking for infection to try to figure out why the fever. It is possible the fever could be due to the trauma to the brain since our brain regulates body temperature.
His body also has been having a hard time the last couple days digesting the food fed to him through the tube. They had to keep stopping the feeding temporarily while waiting for the food to digest. I spoke with the dietician today to see if I could possibly feed my husband natural fruit and veggie juices. They would not agree but agreed to give him a different type of food that is made from whole foods. I pray this also promotes faster healing.
Following are present prayer requests:
God has certainly been very good through this testing. He has taught us much, and drawn us closer to each other, and I pray that through this trial I, our family, and Pacific Baptist Church will never be the same. As one of my sons prayed tonight after we all sang to my husband at the hospital, we thank the Lord for counting us worthy to suffer a trial such as this that we may know Him in a way we never had before. May God be glorified in every way.
Mrs. Joe Esposito
They took Pastor on for an MRI today, and an angiogram. We will probably have the results tomorrow. They found one small vein that remains in his brain, and tomorrow the doctors will review it to see if it's significant enough to need to do anything about.
Please continue to pray for his fever, lung infection, stabilization, and continue healing to his brain, and that the Lord would be glorified through this all in some way.
Pastor was transferred out of the ICU today to the neuro floor. He still has fever and infection and is on antibiotics. Please pray for his fever and infection to go away.
Then, please continue once again to pray that the Lord would heal any damage to his brain, for him to wake up from his coma, and for healing all around.
Pray that we'd be more like Christ because of this and that He would receive all of the glory.
Praise the LORD, Pacific Baptist had a tremendous Friend Day with scores and scores of visitors, many of whom were saved! In the absence of our Pastor, God continues to bless! God is good!
Pastor's fever has subsided and his brain pressure had gone down since yesterday. That's a blessing. Praise The Lord and thank you for the prayers. Please pray that he continues to stabilize and that in weeks and months to come the Lord would continue to heal and bring back the functionality of his brain. Please continue to pray that the Lord would receive glory from all that is done.
Pastor opened his eyes for a short time today too. They say that is another step towards wakening from a coma. Please continue to pray for his neuro functionality as we know the Lord has preserved pastor thus far and can continue to work.
It's been about 24 hours since Pastor has gotten out of surgery. Again, praise the Lord that it went well. This morning when I came in, they were trying to get his fever down (it was at close to 103). His brain pressure is up a bit as well (this can be a natural reaction to the surgery), so they readjusted his draining tube going into his brain to try to drain a little more. Also, they did a cat scan, and saw that they AVM was totally removed and gone (Praise the Lord!!!). It seems there has been no bleeding or infection.
Please pray once again for the swelling to go down and for his fever to subside (it did after much prayer before his surgery). Then, please continue to pray that the Lord's will would be accomplished and that He would get all the honor and glory. Thank you for praying and for your continued prayers.
-Bro. Joseph Esposito Jr.
PRAISE THE LORD FOR A GOOD SURGERY! The surgeon just came out and talked to us. The AVM has been removed successfully.
Thank you for your prayers. He said the next 24 hrs are big to watch for bleeding, swelling, or infection. Please keep that part in prayer.
They DID put his bone flap back on, and he's still in the recovery room for up to 3 hours.
Thank you for your faithful prayers for this surgery!
Please continue to pray for neuro-functionality, that he would awake from his coma, and for a miracle in the healing of his brain!
-Bro. Joseph Esposito Jr.
Pastor is currently in surgery and will be for a couple hours. Please pray for wisdom and for the Lord to guide the hands of the surgeons. They need to remove more of his skull because the AVM extends further than what they originally removed so please pray for wisdom there too.
Please pray for continued healing and that God would be glorified regardless of the outcome.
Pastor has been cleared by the doctors for his surgery tomorrow.
A specific time is not yet set, but it may be as early as 6 AM.
Please pray for wisdom and God's hand of favor upon the doctors, and pray for Pastor's body to be strong through the surgery.
Thank you for your fervent prayers!
Please continue to pray for Pastor's lung infection as doctors say it needs to subside before his Tuesday or Wednesday surgery. Please pray for God's hand upon the surgeons.
Thank you for your prayers!
Please continue to pray! Here are a few prayer requests:
Thank you for your continued prayer!
ANSWERED INSURANCE PRAYER: God answered and has worked in the hearts of the insurance company to allow Pastor to stay in the hospital until his surgery is completed.
LUNG INFECTION: Please continue to pray for the lung infection. There is still lot of fluid in lungs.
UPCOMING SURGERY: We met with the doctors and it looks like Pastor will have surgery on his brain next week. Please pray for wisdom for the family and surgeons through this process.
Please pray for a miracle!
LUNG INFECTION: Please continue to pray for Pastor's lung infection as it seems to have remained the same since he was diagnosed. This infection must be cleared up before his next surgery.
IMPORTANT SURGEON MEETING: Mrs. Esposito has a meeting with surgeons today. Please pray for wisdom during the meeting with the many decisions that must be made down the road.
INSURANCE ASKING TO TRANSFER OUT: The Insurance is pushing to have Pastor transferred out to another facility between now and the time he has the final brain surgery. Please pray that they will allow him to continue at Memorial Hospital until his surgery is complete.
UPCOMING SURGERY: Please pray for Pastor's upcoming brain surgery that is most likely going to be mid to late next week.
CONTINUED HEALING: Please continue to pray for healing, responsiveness, and recovery for Pastor's brain.
Thank you for your continuous, fervent prayer!
Stomach procedure went well. He was moved down to the neuro section of the hospital. They rescheduled his brain surgery to next week. Please pray for wisdom as we meet with the drs and as we finalize the date for next week.
Please continue to pray for his neuro functionality and his lung infection. Pray for The Lord to do a miracle to His honor and glory.
VITAL PRAYER REQUEST: Doctors and surgeons are talking about possibly performing the third needed surgery to remove the AVM by the end of the week. Though this does not change his current neuro status, it will prevent the AVM from rupturing again.
Please pray for wisdom and guidance for the doctors. This surgery (as every neuro surgery) holds very high risks.
PEG OPERATION TOMORROW: Doctors have decided to do the PEG (stomach) operation tomorrow morning. It is a minor surgery, but please pray for all to go well.
CONTINUE TO PRAY FOR NEURO FUNCTIONALITY: Please pray for a miracle and that Pastor would regain his normal brain functions again.
There are no new updates today. Please continue to pray for Pastor Esposito.
Your prayers are greatly appreciated by Pastor's family and the Pacific Baptist Church family!
The tracheostomy went well today. The feeding tube procedure was pushed off until at least tomorrow as it may have caused too much stress on his body for one day. Please pray for that minor procedure tomorrow!
Thank you for your continued prayer. Please continue to pray for his brain to heal and for the Lord to work a miracle in this situation!
Two Procedures Tomorrow: Tomorrow late morning or early afternoon they will do a tracheostomy (a procedure that will help him to breathe through his throat instead of the oxygen tube that goes through his mouth and down his throat. Then, they will remove his feeding tube that is currently in his throat and inset a tube to feed him directly through his stomach (gastrostomy). These procedures are being done because, if the Lord would chose to bring him out of this, the procedures will prevent permanent damage to his throat by the tubes he currently has.
Doctor's Meeting with the Family Today: Today the family had an in depth meeting with the doctors at Memorial. In a nutshell, here's what they discussed: The back of Pastor's brain which controls reflexes, breathing, etc. does have some functionality. As for the healing and ability to use the front of his brain (the part that controls logic, awareness, reason, etc.) there is no way to tell. Only time and healing will tell.
Pray for a Miracle! Please continue to pray for a miracle. This is what we need! Please pray for the Lord's hand of healing upon Pastor's body and his brain. Thank you for your continued prayer!
Thank you for your continued prayer!
The surgery will be put off for possibly two weeks. We are awaiting the results of yesterday and Sunday's CT scans. Until his condition betters, an MRI cannot be taken to give a better overview of what has happened and is happening in his brain.
Please continue to pray!
Here is an update on Pastor Esposito's condition from his eldest son, Joseph. Please continue to pray!
The results from Pastor's latest CT scan showed little change (neither positive nor negative change). Please pray for improvement (responsiveness, etc.) next week when he is re-evaluated. Thank you for your faithful prayers!
A CT scan was run earlier today but the results are not yet known. The tube that was draining fluid from his brain was removed completely today. A pricker was set to aid with medicine and drawing of blood. Please pray for Pastor to awake and show signs of responsiveness.
Thank you for your prayers!
“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.”
Just this afternoon, Pastor Esposito's neurosurgeon visited and said that Pastor is still in too critical of a condition for them to complete the necessary surgery to assure that the blood vessels do not burst again. There must be responsiveness from Pastor before they can proceed with the much needed next surgery. We urge you to pray for continued healing for Pastor and that he would show responsiveness.
Thank you for your prayers!
“Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.”
Thank you for your prayers! God is in control. It is an encouragement to see so many people around the world praying for our pastor. Continue to pray for the swelling to go down, his third surgery to go well, that there will be no long term brain damage, and the healing of his body.
We would like to share a song with you that has been an encouragement to our church family.
Praise the Lord that Pastor Esposito's brain pressure went down!
Please continue to pray for these specific requests:
Update from Joseph Esposito Jr.
Good afternoon. I trust and pray that you had a great AM service this Lord's day. Some have asked if we could keep you posted on my dad's situation. A slight improvement is that he is now taking more breaths on his own, whereas yesterday it was mostly the machine breathing for him. As of this morning, we are still just waiting and praying. My mom did ask me to send a list of specific prayer requests, so I have listed them below. Thank you again for your texts, emails, calls, and most of all, your continued prayer for my dad. As a family, that is our greatest comfort. Have a blessed day.
Psalm 27:14 "Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord."
As of this morning, Pastor Esposito's vital signs were good, but doctors say that for the next few days and possibly weeks, we can just wait, and pray that he wakes from his coma and that his brain would continue to heal.
Please continue praying daily that the Lord would continue to work. Also, please pray for the people of Pacific Baptist Church to stay strong and continue going forward.
Continue to Pray! The swelling in the front of his brain slightly went down so they were able to put in a tube and drain some spinal fluid; a procedure that the doctors wanted to do. He is still in a coma and is in critical condition so please continue to pray. Please pray that he recovers well from his last surgery so that he could be strong for his next one.
A RAY OF HOPE
But still very urgent! The second surgery was successful. The main source of the bleeding has been cleaned up. Pastor is still in a coma and will need a follow up surgery to remove the rest that hasn't been cleaned out. Please keep praying, as he has not awaken from his coma. Thank you for your faithful prayers! God is good!
Pastor is still in a coma. The doctors are currently running tests to see if the swelling has gone down, so that they can determine whether to continue surgery or if they need to wait longer.
Please continue to pray for our Pastor and his family at this time. Thank you.
The hospital has asked us not to call them for the update of our Pastor. However, we understand that you care for him and that you would want to know about his condition. If you could help us by calling or texting Mrs. Jaz Esposito for the update instead, that would be a blessing.
Thank you for praying and for being an encouragement in this needful time.
Pastor went through the first part of his surgery which saved his life. However, there is some swelling in his brain that needs to go down before they can continue the surgery. He is in a coma right now. We need you to keep praying. God is in control!
For the next few days, please do not call, text, email, or go by Pastor's house. They know that you love them and are praying for them, but we really need to give them their space at this time. If they need anything, they will let us know.
PLEASE NOTE: School will be cancelled today. We understand that some parents will need to bring their children due to the late notice so we will still be ready for those who come.
Please pray for our Pastor!
He was rushed to the hospital after service tonight. He just got a CAT scan and the result is bleeding in the brain. He will need to have an emergency surgery. Please pray for wisdom for the surgeons and bleeding to stop.
Please understand that the family is going through a sensitive time right now, so we would want to give them their space. We will be keeping the church family posted.
Please keep praying! Thank you.