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.

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


  1. It was a relief to read this. The Lord is in control. We continue to remember you all in prayers.

  2. We rejoice knowing that the surgery was successful We will pray that from day 5-8 the "cheese" and the "cloth" will figure out how to begin fusing together! We will pray every day for Ray Uncle to be healed from these skilfully executed wounds. We will pray for continued peace and joy that is already so evident among you all.

  3. Thank you for such a positive report. A real sense that the Lord's hands are on the whole situation - praise Him!

  4. So thankful to hear that the surgery went well. We will definitely be praying for healing now and a full recovery.

  5. The quiet trust in your dear mother's eyes as she focusses on Dr Stephen's explanation says it all, Andi. "This is the Lord's doing and it is marvellous in our eyes..."

    1. Thanks Geoff - we have been thinking alot about you these days - and very blessed to have Jeremy call us up from Oz twice!

  6. Lois & Rudina Sobkoviak24 March 2015 at 06:11

    We are thankful to hear God answers all of our prayers that the surgery went well. We will continue to pray for healing and strength in the recovery period. Thank you for your updates. You all are in our continued prayers. God is faithful...

  7. He is faithful....what else I can say :)

  8. So thankful to God that the surgery went well. My soaked in tears thankingbthe Lord for his daily mercies and grace in our life. Continuing to pray for healing on uncle . God is good and his mercies endures forever. Luv Alphy

  9. Glad to hear that the surgery went well. Please pass on our greetings to your parents, especially your dad. Mike & Heather Wheate

  10. We prayed immediately after reading this update, giving thanks for what the surgeon has accomplished by the grace of God, and praying for healing to take place without infections, or complications, as the Lord wills. Thanks for your wonderfully written updates!