Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Losing tubes

Each day sees a bit of progress for Dad.

When Dad woke up today he had 4 tubes in him - 2 of them draining into bags that he carried around.



Today he celebrated having 2 tubes less.  The nasogastric tube was removed, as was the catheder.  So now Dad only has one bag draining - an abdominal drain to check whether the stitches are holding (and they seem to be) and the jujenal tube which is still being used so far. 

Dad had some fruit juice today and soup.  Tomorrow sees him get more liquids and the beginnings of some formula food. 

So far, so very good.  We are now on day 8 since the surgery, and Dr. Stephen Alfred had said that the 5th to 8th day were the crucial ones - the ones when there was danger of leakage taking place post-operatively.   I looks like Dad is on the mend.  The prayers of the saints are being felt.

As are the prayers of the saints go up - the saints also come wandering over.  Today Dad was blessed with a visit by Ashok Kulkarni - an old friend of Dad's - a very old friend of Dad's.  Ashok and Dad used to play together as school boys in the mission compound in Akola.  Another boyhood friend of Dad - Vishwas Thorat - called up the other day to express his love and prayers.

And over the weekend we were touched to have a visit by one of Mum and Dad's sons - Narendra Kumar.  An email informed us on Thursday that Narendra was taking the train from Varanasi and would be in Thane on Saturday.  And so here he was this weekend - large as life and full of the amazing gentleness and love that this man gives to so many as he and his wife Pramila serve those in jail and living on the streets of Varanasi.

We are especially grateful as Narendra's being here made my lightning 1.5 day trip to Delhi so much more possible for Sheba and Mum.

In all of Dad's healing, we must not forget his most faithful friend: Mum.  These two have walked 47 years together.  And they are still walking.  We see them going for walks along the hospital corridor, with Mum carrying Dad's bags (he lovingly called her his 'bag lady') and cheerily greeting all and sundry.

Mum and Dad are such a lesson to us in love.  Faithful, living-for-the-other, giving love.

We have seen how over the years, when one is down, the other is caring.  We have seen it again over this past month.

Mum continues to care for him in so many ways.  Reading scripture to him, scratching him in the high bilirubin days, giving him his beloved head-massages, praying with him.   The look on Dad's face when Mum walks into his hospital room in the morning is priceless.  You would have thought another sun has risen...

We are blessed to see two people who have grown old gracefully, lives intertwined and still moving forward in love and care for each other.

Would that each one of us would have this heritage ahead of us...

Mum has been spending most of the days with Dad at the hospital - partly to free Sheba and me to do the work and home-building activities we need to - and partly because of the blessed coolness of an AC room in the Thane heat.  But tonight we should all be sleeping especially peacefully as we have just installed ACs in our home.

And so we come to the end of another day. 

Yesterday was hard for Sheba and myself because we did not get the hoped-for and expected order regarding Yohan from the authorities in Bhiwandi.  But instead of getting angry we are looking to the Lord in prayer.  It is also good for us to get a small insight into the utter helplessness that so many feel when they are trapped into a system with very few avenues of justice.  It is also good for us to keep trusting the Lord - and sobering to see that for all the 'things in our favour' - we still are so much at the apparent mercy of others, esp. those who have positions of authority.

After our Tuesday night Bible study (and supper) at Shanti's home, Sheba and I dropped in to see Dad.  Anil Edwards has very kindly taken on night duty with Dad tonight.  It was a joy to see Dad with fewer tubes than at the beginning of the day - and with his same big smile.  We brought Mum home - and dropped off Sheba to see the very sick woman who has been admitted at JSK. 

Life goes on.  We are hoping to bring Dad back home on Thursday... or maybe on Good Friday.  Blessings upon blessings.


 

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Small steps forward


We take so many things for granted.

Caring for Dad has helped me appreciate anew the many, many daily activities that just flow into each other - action after action done without thinking, and usually without giving thanks.  

Waking up, rolling out of bed without a second thought, being able to read, eating food, preparing food, being able to help clean up the house, breathing, going to the toilet without problems, choosing my clothes, being able to go down and buy some vegetables from the vendours outside, and then being able to go back at once if I have forgotten something, being able to drive our beloved (and slightly dented) Papaya... all things done with so much freedom.

In fact, since I last wrote on Friday night - I have been to Delhi and back!  What a miracle to leave Dad's room No. 511 at Bethany Hospital at 4 AM on Saturday morning and walk into the CANA board meeting at 9.05 AM at civil lines in old Delhi - and then have an early morning meeting with Anna Ho of Reconciled World at 6.30 AM this morning and then walk back into Dad's hospital room at 1 PM and find him sitting on the bed, getting physiotherapy!   In the mean time, I had used taxi, airplanes, busses, metros, cycle rickshaws, Stefan's car, lots of walking and finally an autorickshaw too (I guess only horses and camels are not on the list).

For Dad, in the mean time, his daily walks are becoming a little longer and more independent each day.  He is still carrying various bags - and uses a stretch belt to support his abdomen - but each step is a step forward to recovery and healing.   We are so glad for every step he takes and cherish the earnest prayers on Dad's behalf for his innards to meld well.

These pictures are actually from Friday - today Dad walked independently.  We are looking forward to less external tubes - and more of his own living tubing to function fully.  Won't you take a moment and thank God for all the living tubes inside you that are busy doing their things well!






Friday, 27 March 2015

Bhiwandi blues - and hospital news

Bhiwandi is one of those forgotten cities.  A dusty, grimy sprawl of buildings along narrow roads, clogged to the gills with all manner of goods lorries and various cargo carrying spawn...  Over the last decades it has grown to a city of 1.2 million souls - and the vehicular congestion stems from its being a thriving centre for logistics and various industries.  But to my jaundiced eye the whole city seems to be one long corridor of grime.

And I should know.  Today was the 4th time I drove over to Bhiwandi to meet the authorities in our efforts to get legal guardianship for Yohan.   The first time we went the main person was not there.  The second time we met the members and were told that a home-study would be done of our place (which took place a week later).   After being told twice not to come because the members would not be there (and going through the gut-wrenching days of Dad's surgery and post-op) we were told to come on Wednesday.  Having reconfirmed in the morning, Sheba and I got into our Papaya at just after noon on a day that turned out to be 40 degrees centrigrade - and found ourselves being baked in an orange tandoori oven as we were stuck for over an hour in bumper to bumper traffic.   And when we got to the court at 4 PM, we were told that the members quorum was not enough.

And so today I left even earlier and got there at 1.20 PM - and found out that 14 people had come 'before me' - so that when the proceedings started at 2 PM, there would be 14 cases ahead of me.  I hunkered down to wait and heard the numbers being called out occassionally.  Worried, thin women holding small children, young men standing listlessly, others talking to each other in low voices.  Policemen (and women) in mufti - it is a children's court and the police officers are told not to wear uniforms so as not to make the place too scary for the children.  Case workers from social service organisations coming in an out.  A woman that I have seen at least 2 times before walking around, her eyes wide.  The hot air being redistributed by a fan.  The seating shifts as cases are called out.

Finally I hear number 15 being called.  I jump up with my bags and papers and walk into the main hall.  The two members are seated at the main desk.  I see that there are two folks ahead of me so I sit and wait till their issues are solved.  Then I meet up with the concerned officers.  The one who I have met before recognises me.  He looks through the report written by the social worker about our home visit - and then briefly discusses with his colleague.  He then pulls out a juvenile act book and they look through it for the format needed to write out the order in question.   "It's all ok" he tells me.   Relief on my part.  "But you will have to come back again on Monday, since this is a new section and we do not have a proforma for this.  We will type it and have it ready for you then - which you will then have to sign."

So it looks like another trip to Bhiwandi.  On Monday.  But we are going to do what it takes to get legal custody of our dear Yohan.

In the meantime, I stopped on my way back to participate in the Bhiwandi Positive Friends meeting.  Today was the last Friday of the month, and our indefatiguable staff member Mahesh along with his friend Nethaniah and church volunteers had organised the latest monthly support group meeting for the HIV positive folks they are reaching out to.  It was touching to be with the 25 odd folks there - and I was happy to see that there were almost as many men as women - since our Thane support group meeting is 80 to 90 percent women.

So when I zipped back to Thane, dogding the now normal array of traffic of all shapes and sizes, I was driving with a song in my heart.

-----------------

As all of this was going on - Dad spent another day in the hospital.  After I had spent the night with Dad, Sheba came over and we were there when Dr. Stephen did his morning rounds.  "How are you uncle?" he asked, to which Dad was able to say that he had slept well for the first time in days.  The main difference was the merciful lack of beeping from the vital signs monitoring equipment that the ICUs are full of.    Stephen was happy that there did not seem to be any bile discolouring the bag that was draining from Dad's abdomen.  The really big need for Dad at this point is for the surgical stiching to 'take' and no leaking to happen.   If Dad continues to improve, then he may be discharged in a few days.  But if they find that 'leaking' has happened, then things get more complicated.

So far, so very good.  We are very grateful to the Lord for all the mercies and kindness that He has given us. 

I am spending the night with Dad tonight and making a lightning trip to Delhi to be part of the CANA (Christian AIDS/HIV National Alliance) board meeting tomorrow.  I will leave directly from the Bethany hospital here in Thane at 4 AM for my 6 AM flight - and hope to be in the meeting at Dr. Nalini Abraham's house at 9 AM... lets see if it all works out!  I hope to be back by Sunday 2 PM.

Amazingly, one of our brothers Narendra Kumar is coming to spend the weekend with Dad - and he arrives in Thane at 12 noon and will be with us till Sunday evening.   God is good.

Sheba has been doing so many things behind the scenes and is the reason everything continues to keep moving forward.  With Asha and Enoch having their final exams these days - and Yohan demanding much attention (and creatively stretching various parameters of patience) we have a full plate on our hands.  We appreciate so much the prayers of the saints on our behalf.  Our tired behalfs that is!

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Back to the 5th floor

For the third time in three weeks, Dad is back on the 5th floor of the Bethany hospital.   We shifted him out of the intensive care unit at around 11 this morning - and he is now living in room no. 511 and blessed with being the bed next to the window.

It is blessedly quiet for Dad after the non-stop beeping of the vital signs monitoring equipment that formed the aural wallpaper of the ICU.  Dad is full of praise for the care that he has received and is in awe of the complexity of post-op care - with so many different folks doing so many things.

The sheer number of tubes and bags that Dad has continues to amaze us all.  Even after unhooking the ECG monitoring wires, Dad still feels that he is 'like a Christmas-tree' when he goes for the short walks he has been asked to start taking.

His pain medications continue to work well - and we have a real survivor who is in the process of healing.  Dad is tired and Mum has been their this afternoon fending off visitors by engaging them in conversation so that Dad does not have to summon up the energy to pour into their lives (which is his default option).   We would prefer no visitors this week as Dad is weaker than he looks (and feels at times).  Prayer is the most powerful tool - and God never tires of hearing us talking to Him!

Stefan flew back to Delhi today - a great blessing he was to us all!  Asha and Enoch had exams this morning and are blessed with a 'study holiday' tomorrow, so we are a bit more relaxed this evening as a family.  We just finished our evening prayers (we are reading in Ezra - and were impressed by a man who devoted himself to learning, practicing and sharing the word of God).  Before that Enoch and I dropped Asha off for her violin class and we read 'The Warden and the Wolf King" while waiting for her.  A shopping stop at our trusty D-mart and then home to a delicious chicken biryani that Sheba somehow whipped up (with the help of Yohan).

family prayers 2 nights ago - picture taken by Stefan


So I am off to relieve Mum and take the night shift at Bethany Hospital with Dad.  These are days of miracle and wonder...   We are so grateful for the many evidences of grace.

We continue to cherish prayers for Dad's full and complete recovery.  He is still very weak and needs much healing from 'the skillful wounds' that he received on Monday which were done to try and extend his life on earth...


Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Swirly day

Dad is in the intensive care unit of Bethany Hospital.  And life continues to swirl around.

When was that operation now... last week?  last year?  It all seems so long ago - and yet we are not even 100 hours past the major and what we hope and trust to be life-extending operation that Dad went through on Monday.

Since we are not allowed to 'stay' in the ICU (not even hide under his bed) - and Dad is quite stable in every way - Mum, Sheba, Stefan and myself take turns popping in for a few minutes during the day to see how Dad is doing... and are also taking part in the normal swirl of activities.

Stefan flies back to Delhi tomorrow - his stay much appreciated - as is Neeru's constant 'long-distance' support from Delhi.   One of our other brothers - Narendra Kumar just emailed to say he is coming in from Varanasi for 2 days over the weekend to help with Dad...  perfect timing as I need to be away for 36 hours over the weekend (God has his own wonderful ways of working things out!).

Sheba and I were back at JSK today.  We had our weekly staff meeting.  Good things to hear - about testing camps and different families who are going through very tough times.   Also much to pray about - how to effectively use our beautiful set up here... what directions JSK should take this year.  What do you want of us Lord?  We prayed together.  And need to keep hearing what God wants.

Then Sheba and I drove off in the heat of the day to the Child Welfare Committee in Bhiwandi.  We started off in a simmering haze, and then to our horror were trapped in bumper to bumper (and many of them big dumpers) traffic.  Massive, massive jam.  We saw a side road and skimmed along in the dust... till we got bottle necked there too.  2 hours being baked.  We tried to sing songs of praise.

And when we finally got to the office - we were told that we were (a) too late and (b) there was only one committee member there - out of the three who make up the committee.  One was sick.  One had another emergency.  The remaining one was not empowered to make decisions.  A quorum of 2 is needed for an order to be past.  4 PM in dusty Bhiwandi.  Hot.  Turn around.  Back to Thane.

And so instead of getting the order that we were hoping to get regarding our custody of Yohan, we will have to figure out another day.  A precious afternoon gone up in the hot haze... Asha and Enoch's final exams tomorrow.

But God is still in control.  I got back to Jeevan Sahara Kendra to catch the very end of our monthly Positive Friends meeting.  People were still talking.  Amazing to see people living with HIV and smiling and sharing and linking up with others.  God has been so good.  I saw a teenage girl who 8 years ago was on her death-bed in a govt. hospital with terrible TB meningitis.  She and her parents are positive but living their lives with gusto.  Met new people.  Saw old friends.  What an honour to be among these saints.

Now we are off to see Dad in the ICU.  As I write this the church women have a 1 hour prayer meeting (every Wednesday) with Sheba at our place.  Some of the men will come over tonight at 9.30 PM.  In the midst of all of this we will have supper and prayer and sleep a bit.

Thanks for being along for the journey!


Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Lessons in the ICU

Stefan and I met Dad this evening.  We had taken off our shoes to come into the Intensive Care Unit of the Bethany hospital and moved to bed no. 6.   The hum of monitoring equipment and the constant beeping that registered heartrate and other vital signs formed the background sounds to our encounter with Dad.

Dad was horizontal.  Eyes closed.  But as soon as we came close, his eyes opened a sliver and then he croaked "more angels have come."   Croaked, because Dad's mouth is very, very dry - making it hard for him to speak.

What a joy to have Dad speaking.  He was horizontal - strapped in and all manner of tubes and wires coming in and out of him.  And then he surprised us: "They made me walk" he said with a mock tragic voice.  "Walk? You must be joking?"  But he wasn't.  The nurses had actually had him do a small walk today.  He said he could sit up but that the tubes and wires were taped to the bed...

The good news is that Dad is largely pain-free.  Largely, that is, other then periodic short waves of pain that wash through him.  We asked how often these come, and he said that he gets about 3 an hour - but that as soon as they are over there is no more pain.   We saw Dad go through a number of them during our short time with him.  He would become quiet, close his eyes and let the pain pulsate through him.  Then he would open them and the familiar crinkly smile was there.

"I have learned two big lessons" said Dad.

"Lesson No. 1.  Whenever someone now will ask me to 'pray for so-and-so because they have a heart problem.  Or are admitted in hospital.  Or whatever else.  I now really know what they are going through and I will really be able to pray for them.  Normally we just 'say a prayer' and then get on with things - maybe eat lunch or something.  But now I now what it is like and I will really pray - just as people have really been praying for me."

"Lesson No. 2.  I always wondered what doctors and nurses do.   You see them in the halls, wearing their uniforms, but what do they actually do? Now I really know.  I have been cared for and monitored and looked after by these dear ones.  What a privilege to be here."

Dad went on to say how happy he is to be in the place where he is and to have had the surgery at the right time.   We reflected his happyiness.  Holding his hands.  Talking to our dear father as the vital signs monitoring machines beeped at varying frequencies in the background.  We were able to tell him the names of some of the folks who had sent emails or phones.  Smiles on Dad's face.

We know that there is a challenging road ahead.  One that is very new for us as a family.  But tonight - after 24 hours of ICU - we are swept with waves of peace and thanksgiving.  Another big thankyou goes out to God for all our dear friends who are sustaining us through these days of grace. 

pictures courtesy of Stefan Eicher of course!

Lessons from cancer: a letter from a friend

We have received so many letters where dear friends of Dad and Mum share their concern and assure us of earnest prayers.  

Here is just one of them:

Dear Andi and Sheba.

Thanks for letting us know about the sad situation of Ray having cancer. It is upsetting for Christa and all of you.

10 yrs ago I discovered I had cancer. By Gods grace I made a good recovery. But a close friend did not recover. We both benefited from the cancer in that God used it to bring us both into a much closer relationship. John died in a wonderful joyfull condition full of the Holy spirit.  That too was a form of healing in that he had no fear of death. In it he blessed all who met him and gave glory to God.

How was it possible? May I share a truth we learned? You must know it already, but it can be helpful to hear a testimony of its effectiveness to increase faith.

I thank God that I had a gift of faith to be able to give thanks ( and praise and worship) IN the situation and then FOR the situation.
 

Merlin Corruthers book Power in Praise helped. By thanking God for the difficulty we were able to turn the devils curse into a blessing. God changed me. I discovered that to fear something is a form of idolatry, like worship, and it allows the situation to have power over you. But to worship, praise and thank God in and for all things releases his power and authority into the situation.

It was one of the best things to happen to me in my life. I went on to discover my ministry.

God bless you all. We are praying for a great release of the Holy Spirit into the situation and for Gods name to be glorified and his love made manifest. 


Bill Owen.
 

Mini-update: Dad in ICU

24 hours ago Dad had just come off the table and was wheeled into the ICU.  When we met him this morning, he was ... cheery.  Though there seemed to be wires and tubes attached to every part of him.

We are grateful that Dad was able to get some sleep in the night.  He gave us a big smile and chatted a bit amidst the beeps and squawks of the monitoring equipment around him.

All the way my Savior leads me;
  What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
  Who through life has been my Guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
  Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
  Jesus doeth all things well,
For I know, whate’er befall me,
  Jesus doeth all things well.

Monday, 23 March 2015

My times are in your hands - Dad's Major Surgery

"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
 He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me."

After we had prayed in the morning before Dad's surgery, Sheba had asked Dad what he wanted to tell his grandchildren.  Dad responded by quoting from Psalm 23.  He had been meditating on this Psalm and spoke it with clarity and joy as he was about to go inot the valley of the shadow of death.

We have been in a season of grace with Dad.  Late last night, after Stefan had come from Delhi,  Sheba, Asha and I we went to pick up Mum and pray with Dad.  Stefan caught our mood beautifully in these two pictures:

I can't remember what we were talking about - but there was a sense of peace and joy...
 
A peace that passes understanding.  We were on the brink of what could be Dad's last night of this life - with a major surgery looming the next day - but you would not know it from his demeanor.  Here was a man who was really ready to meet his Maker.   And this peace was palpable not only for us - but also for everyone who walked in.  The wife of one of the Bethany hospital doctors told Mum that a colleague of her husband who is working on Dad's floor said "I like going into that room - there is so much peace there."  We know that this peace did not come by accident - but is the fruit of so many prayers by so many saints... thank you for bearing us along in your supplications to our Maker, Redeemer and Friend! 


Dad's surgery day dawned as a muggy, hazy day - the first day of our summer here in Thane.

Stefan had spent the night with Dad, and Mum went over very early so Sheba and I joined them after 8 AM so that we could have some time of prayer before Dad was taken for surgery just before 9.

Last night's letter to all of Mum and Dad's friends on their email list (1500+) had led to another amazing bout of letters and calls from different people who found out about Dad's condition.  We are again humbled by the deep love that so many have expressed - love that can be hard to respond to at times...

We were holding hands and praying when Dr. Stephen walked in wearing his green scrubs.  He told us that there were two other unexpected surgeries that had come up and so Dad's surgery would take place at 11 AM.

 
Sheba went home to the kids and I went over to Jeevan Sahara Kendra to be part of the morning devotions - and write down some of the names of the many who had sent special emails for Mum and Dad.

At 10.30 Dad was put on a wheel chair and taken down to the 3 floor to the operating theatre.  As he was wheeled in we each gave him a final kiss.  Would it be the last time we saw him alive was one of the thoughts that went through my mind.

The doors swung shut and we could see Dad being welcomed by the theatre technicians and taken inside the inner doors.  

And then the waiting began. 

Mum, Stefan and I first prayed in the hall, and then went down to the cafeteria for coversation, juice, coffee and more prayer.  Mum then went back up to room 505 to pray and write her journal while Stefan and I continued to talk.   Calls came in - SMSes and expressions of love and prayer.   We got calls today from Australia, the US, Britain, Saudi - and all parts of our dear country - people who love Mum and Dad deeply and from the heart.  

The hours moved by slowly.   Dr. Stephen had said that there was every chance that when the actual opening was made, that the tumour would show itself to be inoperable... perhaps already grafted to one of the main blood vessels servicing the liver...  In such a case they would perform a bypass surgery around the tumour and close Dad up within an hour.   So as 1 hour bled into 2, the thought was expressed by all of us that the later we are called to the theatre to meet the surgeons, the better.

More prayers.  Rest.  Stefan brought up two plates of 'missal pau' and coffee for lunch and we ate with thankfulness.  Sheba was at the clinic and the saints around the world and our country were praying.

The nurses had told us that they had written 3 hours for the surgery.  2PM came and went without a peep or a squeak.   Our church leaders Anil Sainani showed up to pray with us.   Later Jolly and Suma gave a call that they were downstairs and I went down to pray with them too.  More calls.  More SMSes.

And then the nurse came with the news that we were wanted at the operating theatre.   Once outside the swinging doors again, we waited as the surgery drew to a close.  Then at 3 PM we were asked inside the outer doors to a small conference area just outside the main operating theatres.

Dr. Stephen was there in his green scrubs and greeted us with the statement that 'the operation has gone very well.' 

Big sigh of relief. 

He then showed us what they had done using the Whipple procedure.  The growth in Dad was a large and advanced tumour which was at the top of the pancreas, not inside the intestine after all, but blocking the bile duct completely.  The tumour was operable and had been completely removed.  In the process, the surgeons also removed the top of the pancreas, a small portion of the stomache, intestines, the common bile duct, the gall bladder... and then sowed the rest back together.

Stephen asked a nurse to bring the material out, and showed us the mass - a dense pancreatic tumour - as well as the distended gall bladder which was what had probably been causing Dad this abdomenal discomfort in the last few days.

It was a sobering thing to see portions of my father's body in a kidney dish.  That which had been so fine and healthy, now deseased and worn.

Sobering how much had to be cut - in order to save.  Stephen suggested that if we had not done this surgery now, we would be looking at probably another 4-6 months more of Dad's life - but by God's grace we found out about the tumour now.

As before, Stephen charted out the next set of challenges.  Dad is to be in the ICU for about 48 hours at least - and then in the wards for at least a week.  The key challenge being for the body to repair itself and overcome the skillful wounds that have been inflicted in Dad's body in order to try and protect it from its own rebellious mass of cells.   The surgeon's skill in stitching together in a new way is always limited by the nature of the living, breathing, functioning body itself, which now has to heal itself in new and unexpected dimensions.   One of the key areas of healing needed is for what is left of the pancreas to meld with the intestines.  In a memorable phrase, Stephen compared this to 'sowing together cheese and cloth' - two very disparate body tissues now bound together.

So Dad now has a lot of healing to do.  Stephen said that days 5-8 are crucial as they are the acid test about whether the new 'systems' have melded together, or whether they are 'leaking.'  The latter being present in almost half the cases - and can lead to great difficulties.   Will you direct your prayers towards this now?  That the Lord will help Dad heal and meld together well?

We close this day with an immense sense of gratitude.   The day started with us wondering whether it may be the last one for Dad.   It ends with a sense of peace and thankfulness that Dad has been granted another extension of life. 

We know that the road ahead will not be easy and that there is much adjustment for all of us to go through.  The road to recovery is one that will have to be trod a step at a time.

Stefan is on 'duty' tonight at Bethany Hospital - and has offered to be there for most of tomorrow - as the earth spins around again.  We are so grateful to him for being here - and for Neeru and the kids for releasing him.   Letters from Premi are special and her presence is missed - a call from Rudy was a blessing - other family members proximate and distant add peace and joy.

One of the Psalms we read this morning put it like this:

But I trust in you, LordI say, “You are my God.”  My times are in your hands... (Psalm 31.14-15a).  

Dad was able to say this today, with total peace and confidence.  We are living witnesses to and recipients of the grace of Jesus today.

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 P.S. Among the many things to thank Stefan for today are the superb pictures that he took using his asus phone!  Kudos!

Quick update on Dad's surgery

We have just met Dr. Stephen and Dr. Kannan and they told us that Dad's surgery went very well.   It was a 4 hour surgery and Dad is currently in the ICU of Bethany Hospital.

Thank you for your prayers - and please keep praying for the post-op healing.

More details later this evening.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Dad's surgery posted

Late afternoon today - the Lord's day - we had a small conference in room 505 of Bethany Hospital.  Dr. Stephen Alfred was doing his evening rounds and reviewed Dad's condition with us.  He was happy that the bile drainage was taking place and that Dad has not shown any further sign of infection.  Dad's liver function test this morning showed that his direct bilirubin count has come down to 10.  So in consultation with Dr. Kannan, Dr. Stephen feels that we should use this window opportunity to do the surgery.



Sheba and I had talked with Dr. Stephen about this last night - and then I had a heart-to-heart with Mum and Dad this morning.  I told them that we are doing this procedure because we see it as the best opportunity to extend Dad's life given the reality of a pancreatic cancer.  The surgery is complicated but is being done by a a skilled surgeon who does this procedure regularly.  There is every possibility that once the opening is made, the tumor is discovered to be inoperable after all - but this is the time when doing a surgery will have a positive impact.  Later when the tumour spreads the day of surgery will have passed.  

I also talked to Dad and Mum that we really do not know what the post-operative challenges of healing will entail.    We expect a number of days in the ICU and then more days of healing in the wards of Bethany hospital and physiotherapy before Dad can be discharged home.   Our hope is that there will be no complications - that God will protect from infections and allow the newly stitched together organs to work with each other - and that healing of body will accompany the healing of soul and spirit that Dad continues to experience in this process.



Dad's response was that we are fully in the Lord's hands - and that He is absolutely good and totally in control.  And that over the past few years Dad has said hundreds of times that we are totally in His hands.  Mum and Dad expressed their confidence that God would see them through - and so we prayed together this morning - holding hands and committing ourselves to His hands.


Sheba and I had talked this morning that we want to trust God.  We know that there are many potential complications in store - but we want to express our hope and faith in the Lord to see Dad and Mum and all of us through with this.  When patients whom Sheba treats told her that they trusted God and asked her to do whatever was possible to help them, it gave her the confidence to move forward.  We sensed that God was asking us to do the same for Dad - to entrust him into God's hands and the hands of the surgeons that God has provided for us.


 
Dad expressed this thought in a communication to a very special person in His life earlier this evening: "As I go under the knife in the morning I know my life is in the Lord's hands.  My whole confidence is that the Lord is in total control." 


A few minutes ago Dad told someone "I feel like I am flying at 30,000 feet with all the prayers of God's people supporting us."


And so the countdown has begun. The bed in the ICU was already been booked for Dad this morning.  The lady from the blood bank has also come with the forms for the frozen blood plasma that Dad will get tomorrow.  Dad just got a body shave.  As I write this, Stefan will have landed from Delhi and is wending his way across the Mumbai traffic to be with us tonight.  Premi wrote a special letter to Dad which I was able to share with him and Mum this afternoon.  The prayer engines are revving up - I have just written a letter that we will be sending tonight to all the people on Dad's email list.  


We expect Dad's surgery to start at 9 AM Indian Standard Time.  How long will it last?  Perhaps 4-5 hours.  


Thanks for being along with us on this journey.





This lily bloomed at our house yesterday...  a sign perhaps?

Decision Day

Sheba and I had a late night discussion with Dr. Stephen Alfred last night.

Stephen is happy that yesterday's ultrasound shows that Dad's bile juices are being drained.  He is happy that Dad does not have a fever - other than a single episode of pain and rigors the day before.

At the same time Stephen laid out the realities of what the surgery can entail.  They may open Dad up only to find that the cancer has already spread - since the CT scan only picks up nodes larger than 1 cm in diameter.  In that case they would insert a permanent stent and close him up - and work on palliative care.  Even in a 'successful' operation - Dad may well face multiple challenges in the post-op recovery - and the cancer may well come back.

So the choice is up to us - to go ahead while Dad is still operable - or not to. 

As a family we are at peace that Dad is fully in God's hands.  We know that our Lord Jesus is the author of life - and our eternal sustainer.  We also know that besides adding "days to life" - He also adds "life to days."

As it stands, Dad's operation is booke for 8 AM tomorrow morning - the 23rd of March.  The ICU bed is booked for post-op care.  The surgeon - Dr. Kannan - as well as Dr. Stephen have committed themselves to be there.   Stefan has booked his flight ticked down from Delhi and should be here in Thane at 8 PM tonight.

The one decision point left hinges on Dad's bilirubin level (Dad tells me that Billy is fighting with Reuben).  Dad gave blood for a liver function test this morning - and we expect the results in the early afternoon with a final decision to go ahead with surgery being made at 5 PM.

It's a decision day.  One choice will be made this evening at 5 PM.  Whether to go ahead with surgery tomorrow - or whether to postpone and wait till Dad's liver function improves more will be made at that time.  But in the bigger pictgure we can rest assured that all of our times continue to be in the loving hands of our Lord Jesus.

Thanks for walking along with us on this journey.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Fragile

I am in Room 505 and a nurse is checking Dad's blood pressure.  He was taking a nap greeted her happily. 

"Is it ok?" he asked after she finished the reading.  "Yes, it is normal" the nurse said, "and so is your temperature."

Looking at Dad - you sometimes wonder if anything is wrong with him after all.  He remains cheery - even though he is mainly horizontal these days.

But he has not been admitted at Bethany Hospital for a rest time.  He is actually quite sick.   Having said that, Dad commented the other day that the 'rest' he is getting now is something that he is at least in one way enjoying - not having to answer the tyranny of the hundreds of emails that he normally feels he has to catch up with.

Lets be straight here: Dad is here at Bethany Hospital because he is quite sick.  His bilirubin level when measured this morning was less than the collosal '31' that he his Wednesday sample was (the report of which we saw on Thursday) - today's sample weighed in at 27.   We are hoping tomorrow's will be a lot better.  Our goal is to get the bilirubin level below 10.  If we don't see progress to this by Sunday, the surgery planned for Monday the 23rd will be postponed.  With the surgery itself fraught with various risks - we don't want to have Dad's kidneys shut down in the post-op period because of high levels of bilirubin.
 
Just how fragile we are came to us very starkly today.  Dad was chatting happily (as is his wont of course) with sister Jancy - the nursing superintendent - when he felt a pain near his liver.  The pain then travelled in a straight line up to his shoulder - and then spread across the front of his abdomen.  Then the chills came - uncontrollable shivering.  Blankets were put on but it didn't help.  The nurses called the Doctors - with Dr. Stephen and Dr. Kelkar (Bethany's most senior physician) also coming to the bedside.   Mercifully it subsided after abotu 15 minutes - but those were terrible minutes for Dad.  This is something he has never experienced - having been healthy for most of his life.   We think it shows an infection - and a high-level antibiotic is now being pumped into Dad at regular intervals.  And it shows us just how serious Dad's condition actually is - and how quickly something can cascade out of control.   Mercifully, the rest of the day passed without any incident and I can now hear Dad snoring softly in the bed as I bash the keyboard (and am about to make a quick run to JSK to get this off into cyberspace).

And in the midst of all of this - life does go on.  Our JSK team completed a good HIV testing camp yesterday afternoon and saw 48 people getting voluntary and confidential HIV testing done.    Vikas talked about Joseph in our morning prayers.  Our staff then fanned out for their home-visits. A friend of ours who had lost both parents to HIV and has been bringing up his sister and brother (thankfully all three siblings are negative) brought his sister to the JSK centre see Sheba as his sister has been suffering from epileptic fits.   We have known this young woman for years - but today something seems to have happened, and amidst tears she was able to let Sheba have a glimpse into her heart.   Earlier Sheba had made a small step forward herself in a different sphere - she passed her drivers licence test!  The early morning rides we have made have paid off - and the official liscence is in mail.  Asha and Enoch went to their school - and their final exams are looming just around the corner so Asha took her violin to class today to commemorate her last music class (at least at this school - classes 9 and 10 are sadly music-less).  On coming back in the evening, Enoch did his maths studies - and then Enoch, Yohan and I had a quick game of Risk.   Asha will be burning the midnight oil - so she went down to meet a friend for some time. While Mum was with Dad at Bethany, our dinner table had the five of us polish off hot chappatis and Sheba's delicious channa sabji - with shreekhand to top it off.    Just as I was about to come over to take the night shift, the phone buzzed with Stefan's number on it - he has come back safely from his assignment in Spain.  

The miracle of communication allows us to talk on the phone - even though we be many, many kilometers apart.  So many dear ones call up to find out about Dad - and assure us of their urgent and earnest prayers.   The miracle of the net allows this small reflection on today to spread to various corner of our blue planet.   Locally, one of our church members starts the day by switching on the computer and finding out the latest about Dad by looking up the blog (I believe this is after she reads her Bible etc. of course).   But the bigger miracle is the amazing fact of prayer allowing us to speak directly as children to their parents - to the very Maker and Creator the universe - and the One who loves our souls!

Today taught us again just how slender this gift of life really is.  How slippery the things we so often take for granted can me.  The remarkable way that our organ systems are doing their work, day after day, night after night 24 x 7 x 52 x as many years our loving Lord has in this life for us.  Dad's body suddenly seems so fragile.  How quickly we forget that we are made of dust.  And yet how amazing to know that our lives are so wonderfully structured and purposed.  Despite our fragility, we also have so much robustness wired into us.   When Appa called up today, he inquired about Dad and then said in a wonderfully matter-of-fact way "Sab teek hojayega" - it's all going to become ok - "we have prayed about it!"

Thursday, 19 March 2015

My Lord knows the way through the wilderness....

I am writing this from room no. 505 of Bethany hospital.  Dad is sitting up in bed no. "A" of this twin share room, reading his bible and occasionally looking at the IV line to see if the drip is flowing as it should.   The room is a corner room with windows on both sides - and both look out on greenery. 


It's 9 PM and we are back in the hospital.   In the adjoining bed, Sister Vandana Shinde is getting ready to leave.  She is the wife of Pastor Pravin Shinde of Airoli - and the older sister of our dear and faithful JSK co-worker Daniel Kautikkar.   All three are waiting for her discharge to come through - some snag in the mediclaim means that they are still here.   Daniel showed us the latest picture of his one and a half month old son.  Mother and son are far away in Daund - where Yerusha will be till the baby is 3 months old.

We don't really want to be back in this beautiful hospital room - but sometimes you have to do things that are not quite what you want to do...

The trigger for Dad's readmission was his liver function test that we had done yesterday.  Picking up the results this afternoon was a shock.  Instead of going down from the already high over all level of 19 last week, the reading for yesterday's liver function test was a chart-popping billirubin level of 31!   Could it be a clerical error? 

Dad has been pretty well over the past few days.  He read the paper and went for a small walk each evening.  We met guests and he ate with us at every meal.  We are so grateful for the blessings he has received.  His itching is far less and he has had a good appetite for most of the time.   


But his urine had remained pretty brown and his stool was pretty pale.  And his eyes remained the shocking yellow that we see when he opens them wide...

So when we called up Dr. Stephen to tell him about the results he asked us to immediately have Dad admitted again.

Dad of course used the opportunity to make new friends.  Here he is waiting for me to process his registration to Room 505 - and he has already made another new friend.

On admission they flushed the external stent to make sure it had not been blocked.  The ICU doctor found that fluid went in easily, and came out without trouble, so it does not seem to be clogged up.   But what has happened to the internal stent we just don't know.  It doesn't seem to be working. 
And so we are here on the next twist and turn of this journey.

Earlier this evening I asked Dad what he wanted to say to those who are reading this blog.  These are his words:  "I want to give the same message:  God is in total control.  There is no worry, no anxiety, no fear.  He knows everything that is going to happen, and what ever does happen is for our good."

Dad is currently hooked back up with an IV line - which is delivering his antibiotics efficiently into his veins.   And the external stent is now fully open - instead of the every four-hourly 15 minutes that we were doing at home.  His kidneys seem to be working fine - the blood test shows a normal serum creatinine level.  We will repeat a liver function tomorrow and see.   

He is able to drink water and enjoyed a snack of idlis and coffee that I brought up from the hospital canteen just after admission.

Once again we just sense the great tide of prayer that is going up on our behalf.

Life has some interesting twists and turns.  Tomorrow Sheba has her driving test (soon we should have 2 legal drivers for the Papaya).  We were expecting to meet the authorities in Bhiwandi to get the legal papers for Yohan - but that seems to be postponed too as they said that they would be having a seminar and so we should come on Monday.   

We realise again just how fragile everything is - and also just how much the love of God is present for us.  It's no accident that Jesus is called the Good Shepherd.  He knows the way ahead, and walks before us, besides us, caring for us, leading and guiding, protecting and correcting.

What is the road ahead?  Well, like sheep following our shepherd up a mountain path, we really don't know.  It may seem that the next bend is the last one - but He really knows - and our work is to follow him. 

Currently Dad is scheduled to meet with Dr. Stephen on Saturday morning.  Our plan last week was for Dad's bilirubin levels to come down and then to proceed for his major surgery on Monday 23rd of March.   Now?  Let's see.    We know that every day is a day of experiencing grace.

As Dad lies in bed - ready for another hospital night - we remember the song he used to sing to us when we were small:

My Lord knows the way through the wilderness,
All I have to do is to follow
My Lord knows the way through the wilderness,
All I have to do is to follow
Strength for today, is mine all the way
And all that I need for tomorrow
My Lord knows the way through the wilderness,
All I have to do is to follow


That has been the story of Dad's life.  From his very beginnings - all through till today.  God's grace lived large.  God's mercies, received and given on.  As our Lord so clearly told us: "Freely you have received, freely give."   We have seen this lived out over and over again by Mum and Dad.  

Sometimes it has been messy (make that many times) but as we look back, we are overwhelmed with the clear note of love that shines through it all.

Mum brought Dad and myself some supper - Weiner Schnitzel!  
Dad could only have some mashed potatoes and gravy, but I tucked in for both of us!

How much more time does Dad have?   He tells all and sundry that he is 75 - in which he counts his 9 months after conception and the current 'running year.'   By conventional standards he is 73 years old.  Will Dad live another 10 years?  Five?  One?  Is His time to meet the Lord even sooner?   We really don't know - but we do know something:  Dad lives very much in the present - his cheery greeting of all and sundry continue to bring light to all his care-givers.   And whenever he is called to meet his Maker - Dad will take that last bit of his current journey with great joy and peace.

And so we come to the end of this day.  Dad resting.  The family - Oma, Sheba and our 3 kids at home.  I am on night duty with Dad (and slipping out for a few minutes to upload this on the blog from the computer at JSK).   

The world is spinning.  

A new day is coming.  

Fresh opportunities for grace are close at hand.

All in God's hands

We just got Dad's liver function reports today - and instead of going 'down' they have actually gone 'up.'

We talked with Dr. Stephen and he has asked Dad to be admitted back at Bethany.  And so off to Bethany we are going in a few minutes.

Dad was talking to Vicky on the phone and told him that it is 'all in God's hands.'

In deed!

Thanks for your prayers and support as we take the next steps needed.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Good day / good night

"No news is good news" goes the old saying.  Well, we don't quite go along with that old saw.

But what may seem "small news" - may be some very good news, especially when we add up many, many evidences of grace.

A few glimpses from today:

Dad wearing a crisp, clean, new white kurta that Mum bought for him this morning.

A fridge stuffed with food - where it is hard to fit things in.  God has been so gracious to us.

Yohan's smile - that heart bursting flash of teeth which is so at odds with all that our son has experienced in the first 10 years of his life.

Sheba surprising her driving instructor by her proficiency at driving despite the 10 day 'break' in lessons (a number of days which she practiced using our Papaya - with me right beside her).

Seeing my beautiful daughter wake up after her afternoon nap.

Enoch's honest sweatiness after he had taken Yohan down for playing badminton.

Yohan's delight in getting '10 stars' for having written his three letter words right (Mummy-teacher deserves 10 stars too - make that 100 stars esp. as she is also coaching Asha and Enoch towards their year-ending exams at the end of this month).

Mum's chinese noodle dish for supper - prompting all and sundry to hail her as a 'genius' and make the G-sign with our fingers (with one person making it on the plate with a noodle).

Various calls during the day from people concerned and praying for Dad and Mum.   We see such a legacy of care that they have sown over the years...

Having colleages at JSK tell me about another HIV testing camp they have taken the initiative to organise.

An evening family devotion where we can travel back in time to be with Ezra and the Jewish exiles coming back to rebuild their lives - and see so many parallels with our lives today.

The great joy I have to see Sheba ministering with a patient at JSK - I don't need to hear what they are saying to know that she is helping and blessing them.

Walking outside in the golden evening sun with Dad.  A few rounds in the building complex, telling him things that I don't tell others.  Him wearing his crisp kurta and a black shoulder bag - which artfully concealed his bile bag and the tube that comes out of his side. 

Dishes washed, clean and ready for tomorrow.   The beginning of the sambhar that Sheba will be making for the Bible study tomorrow evening at Shanti's home.  Going out into the night to get drum-sticks and karrya-patta for it - talking to the banana-seller as the night cars drive by.

The list goes on.  In a world of where so much which is wrong is hailed as being right - it is very good to be able to feed on so many good things - all which flow from our loving Father.

And so a good day slips into a good night.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Rest Day (?)

Today was the first day of the week. 

We were blessed with a quick visit by Sarah - who had planned to stop by for 2 days to see her new nephew Yohan!  She had to change plans due to an unexpected assignment and so was only able to spend 6 hours with us - while transitting from her visit to the GM Priya Hospital in Latur and going back to Delhi for further work.



Daily update on Dad:  He is still as yellow as a carrot.  His first night back was a difficult one as he has to sleep on his back - but he is taking it well.  A good bath and a good appetite are blessings.   We are glad that Dad even took a little walk outside in the evening.

It was  a privilege to share about Dad at church today.  The dear saints at the house-fellowship who meet at Jolly and Suma's home have been so faithful in prayer and encouragement to us - and were to glad to hear about Dad's progress.

In the mean-time our guests have begun trickling in.   Drs. Samuel and Ruati Tonsing came mid-afternoon - meeting Mum and Dad after 9 years!   Pastor Chris Willams - transiting between Pune and Myanmar, breezed in early evening.

And in the meantime Mum got sobering news.  One of her cousins from Germany - Beate - had been trying to call Shanti Kunj - but did not know English and our dear Vicky knows no German.  He did have the presence of mind to note down the number and passed it on to us.   The news Beate gave when Mum finally got to talk with her was sad:  Mum's eldest cousin Georg has gone to be with the Lord.  At 84 he had lived a good life and was a firm believer in Jesus Christ.   Sadly, another cousin Manfred had passed away in December - but with his wife being estranged with the rest of the family - they only heard about it recently.

Oh God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.

Under the shadow of Thy throne
Still may we dwell secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defence is sure.

Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting Thou art God,
To endless years the same.


Time, like an ever rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.


Oh God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Be Thou our guard while troubles last,
And our eternal home.


- Isaac Watts

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Dad is home... for now at least

We brought Dad home at 12 PM today. 

He was only in the hospital for 4 nights - but a small stretch of eternity has passed us by.

A week ago tonight, we were sitting with Dr. Stephen Alfred as he spelled out the possibilities that a tumour like the one which the Dehra Dun MRI scan had picked up.

A week later we have Dad out of immediate critical danger from a totally blocked common bile duct.  We have found out that the growth seems confined to a 2.5 cm mass in the upper pancreas.  We have had Stefan come down and already leave for Delhi (and today for Spain).  We have had a flood of emails and calls and comments and above all prayers.  And we have made a decision to move ahead with the major surgery for the 23rd of March.

Dad is still not 'better' - and we now have the challenge of managing the many who want to come and see him and pray with him.  It is of course a great blessing to have so much love - but it also costs.  Every visit made means effort on Dad's part.  Effort to engage, to talk, to share, to narrate his story.  Pray for us as we seek to strike the right balance in these days.

For all of us - we need a recharge - after the pressure of the last few days - we need to shift gears to get back into synch with each other, with others around us.

As I write this, Dad is sleeping in his favourite pyjamas behind me.  What a blessing to have him home.

---------------------------------

Meanwhile, could you please direct your prayers to Delhi, where Neeru's father was admitted in an ICU last night.  We understand that he has suffered a minor stroke.  Please pray for complete healing and wisdom and care by the medical team there.   Please lift up Neeru and the kids at this crucial time.
--------------------

Praise the Lord, you his servants;
    praise the name of the Lord.
Let the name of the Lord be praised,
    both now and forevermore. 
From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
    the name of the Lord is to be praised.
- Psalm 113.1-3