We made these vows to one another more than 44 years ago having no idea what living them out would entail. Now as we take stock, we’ve enjoyed mostly amazingly good health over our adult lives. And as far as the “in sickness” part, David has had to practice it toward me far more than I have toward him. But now it seems to be my turn.
Let me explain via a timeline of what’s been going on:
8/15: David went to University Hospital for outpatient surgery on his esophagus. He had just been diagnosed a few weeks prior with Zenker’s diverticulum—a pouch on his esophagus. For some time, he’d had difficulty swallowing and noticed food getting “stuck in his craw.” Then he experienced a painful episode when he swallowed a Naprosyn and it lodged in his throat where it burned for a few days.
When the surgeon began to repair the diverticulum, he noticed scar tissue, and as he cut away the scar tissue to open up the pouch, much to his surprise a hole appeared! The culprit was the lodged Naprosyn, which had perforated David’s esophagus. His body’s marvelous response was to create scar tissue to seal it!
Immediately after his surgery, David did a barium swallow test and, sadly, the radiologist saw a leak. We waited two days in the hospital with the hopes that it might heal on its own. David did another barium swallow test. The leak persisted.
8/17: The surgeon did a second surgery to repair the leak. His best course of action was to put two stints inside David’s esophagus and a temporary feeding tube to allow the tissue where the leak is located to heal. To complicate matters, right after the surgery, David’s blood oxygen levels became extremely low and he was put on a breathing machine (a step down from a ventilator) for a couple of days. Outpatient surgery became an eight-day inpatient stay in the hospital--for both of us. In sickness and in health.
8/22: We’ve been home since Tuesday evening. I wish I could say that this has made it all better. It certainly has, in some ways, but the presence of this foreign body (two stints) in David’s body feels violent to him. He has severe esophageal spasms, bouts with intense hiccups, can’t talk much because it presses on his vocal chords, and he can’t swallow anything down his esophagus, including his own saliva! He hurts all over and hasn’t been able to sleep much this entire time.
While I am absolutely and unflinchingly devoted to taking good care of him, it is so hard to accept the fact that I can’t make it any easier on him! He’s miserable and it’s excruciating to see my dear husband in so much pain, feeling so discouraged. In sickness and in health is a vow that is stretching me. Stretching my patience, my giving without receiving, my helping while feeling helpless. (It’s also stretching my nursing skills as I learn to administer his nutrition and meds through a feeding tube, which was, at first, so totally intimidating that I had a melt-down with the dietician teaching me how!)
8/31: Next week, David will go in for another barium swallow test to see if the leak has healed. Pray with us that David’s amazing human body, which God created with the astonishing capacity to heal itself, would do its thing! If there’s no leak, then he will have his feeding tube removed, and the following week will undergo surgery (a third time) to remove the stints.
I realize that my writing this all out in such detail is probably less about informing you, our friend, and more out of my own need to process what we’ve been through. And it’s honestly not for the purpose of getting anyone to feel sorry for us. We have so many, many resources—at the top of list being our four adult kids and partners, who have been absolutely incredible! We also have decades of practice offering the sacrificial service of love toward each other. We will be okay. But we would desire your prayers.
As we come to mind, please lift us up before our Creator and gentle Shepherd. We’re tired. We need encouragement that things are headed in a good direction. We need your faith expressed in prayer for us because we find it hard to pray right now.
Thank you for being our friends and allies. Our thoughts and hearts turn toward those near and far who don’t have family and friends and community and resources like we have. “In sickness” would be so difficult to do alone. Bless you from our deepest and grateful hearts. Beth and David