"PLEASE LET ME DIE!"
By: Dan Revoir
FURNACE OF PAIN
Pain! Pain! Pain! Convulsing, agonizing pain! Worse than anything I had ever experienced or could even imagine! My body engulfed by gut-wrenching, excruciating pain! It was not a nightmare! This is really happening. I'm in ICU surrounded by sounds of death, muffled sounds, the clicking of machines breathing for people, the hiss of oxygen while it is being administered in an oxygen tent. The staccato beeping of heart monitors is like a sentinel that warns of impending doom. One of the monitors sounds like a Geiger counter, the beeping is so rapid. As the fogginess of the drugs wear off, I realize it is my monitor! My heart is racing to the point of self destruction! 200...225...250 beats per minute. This is crazy! It's got to stop! That's exactly what the doctor told Martha.
Why is it so hot? This place is like an oven. ICU wards are always cool. Why doesn't someone find out what's wrong? It is stifling in here; I can hardly breathe. I had taken a turn for the worse; the rapid heart beat was now accompanied with a very high fever. My temperature skyrocketed. It is raging like a terrible inferno, burning uncontrollably. The infection was spreading throughout my body. The throes of life and death struggle ensued with the unbelievable fever of 106 degrees. This is the scenario for extremely high fevers in adults: First, there is brain damage, then comes coma, finally death. This battle did not last three hours, not even three days; my fever lasted over three weeks. The heat was insufferable, even my breath was the hot, scorching wind of the desert. My tongue turned black and split, large pieces of flesh would peel off, leaving it painfully exposed and raw. My lips cracked and bled and swallowing was almost impossible. It was as if God had opened a porthole and was allowing me to look into hell! In spite of being terribly sick and having horrifying pain, my mind was completely lucid, very cognizant of what was happening.
My thoughts went to the account of the rich man and Lazarus found in Luke 16:19-31. Both had died; Lazarus was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom (the place of comfort). But the rich man had a different eternal destiny.
Luke 16: 23, 24, "And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame."
Notice, he was conscious! He knew where he was! He could SEE! He could FEEL! He could SPEAK! He was THIRSTY! He was tormented in the flame! Some men try to pass this off as a parable or an earthly story with a heavenly meaning which makes it become just a story made up about a man. But parables never name the person. This, I believe, was an actual event in two men's lives, related by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself to show the terrible torment of hell. A man chooses to go to hell. God in His great mercy sent His own Son to pay the penalty of sin by shedding His own blood on the cross for you and me. This is God's love gift to us and all we have to do is receive it. First, one has to realize that he is a sinner and confess that to God in prayer. Then one must turn away from all that is sin in one's life, by claiming God's power.
Isaiah 55:6,7, "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near; Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God; for he will abundantly pardon."
John 1:12, "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the children of God, even to them that believe on his name."
II Peter 3:9b, "God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance."
ICU had become my new home...with it's deadly silence, and muted voices. The nurses drift back and forth like angels in white, waiting and guarding against Death as he seeks his next victim. Yes, this would be my new home for almost four months, and death was to be my closest companion.
Creature comforts are not one of the amenities of ICU! My bed was called an "ice blanket." The ice flowed all around me. At times I wore a pair of briefs, sometimes nothing at all. The ice
was not cold, but rather was like being submerged in fire.
It burned my ravished body causing terrible agony. God gave me a glimpse of hell; mine would only last a short time but
the rich man has suffered its torments for almost 2,000 years!
THE DEATH WATCH ...
The rapid heart beat and the onset of fever had taken its toll, and as critical as my condition was, it worsened! Vomiting resumed again as bad or worse than the beginning of this nightmare. Only this time it was black. The nurses had to bring large containers for me to use because the regular emesis bowl would not hold enough. It was a strange looking fluid, but I had seen it before.
A few months before, I was standing at the bedside of Margarite Kibby. It was very obvious that this would be her last day, as her family and I were waiting in a death watch. She started vomiting. It was the same ghastly fluid, black and horrible to watch. The lady asked for all of us to leave because she was embarrassed to vomit in front of us. We complied and in three hours she died.
The doctors could not control my vomiting and decided to put an N.G. tube through my nose into my stomach; this would allow them to suction out this black fluid. I knew that something was dreadfully wrong and I was soon going to die. Then doctors started giving me units of blood, which I didn't understand until later; the surgeon told me that I was vomiting my own blood. I was hemorrhaging internally and that was the black fluid.
Another strange force started inside me. A terrible rage overwhelmed me. I begged for enough water to wet my tongue. It was denied! I asked for a sheet to keep the ice from touching me and it was denied! And I could not see any reason for it; I was going to die anyway. So I responded in anger. I was furious. I started tearing out the tubes in my mouth and nose. The doctors patiently and stubbornly reinserted them. Then I would pull them out again. Over and over and over we repeated this procedure until they restrained me. Even while restrained, I would crouch over until I could reach the tubes and jerk them out again. Martha said that when she came into my room I would be holding the sides of the bed shaking my head in anger. Later they performed a tracheotomy on me, probably figuring that would be harder for me to tear out. Like a wounded animal, I reached the primeval instinct of fighting for survival or struggling to die.
I was even angry with God, and crying from the depths of my soul, it is enough. God, let me die...God, I want to come home. I cannot stand the pain any longer. Father, you promised in your Word that you are faithful and would not allow us to be tested above what we are able to bear. You would provide a way to escape, in order that we can bear it. Also, you swore by your own Name to keep every promise in your Word. Father, God, you are bound by your own Word and if you fail to keep it, then you are not God! I cannot stand the pain. I have reached my last limit of endurance. God, please help me...or let me die!
God did not strike me dead because of my anger and desperation. But rather in love and mercy, He heard and answered. He comforted me as parents comfort a sick child. God is faithful to His Word.
My heavenly Father also brought to my heart and mind another promise in His Word, "I will never leave you, nor forsake you." God's grace is sufficient even in the most severe affliction. The "peace that passes all understanding" permeated my entire being. The pain did not stop but God filled my spirit and soul with a tremendous peace and calmness, like the eye of a hurricane, while everything around my world was crumbling.
After what seemed to be an eternity, the fever finally broke. Dr. Benner told Martha that they had to do surgery to find out what was wrong. His face and demeanor indicated something very serious and there were no words of comfort or encouragement. "I don't have a crystal ball! I can't tell you what to expect or what we will find. All I know is that he is the sickest man I've ever seen. We go in tomorrow."
The surgery started with what is referred to as a saber slash in medical terminology, which is very apropos. The incision starts at the rib cage on the left and splits the diaphragm all the way down below the right rib cage to the right side of the body, diagonally across the torso. The saber slash revealed that infection was on the major artery which runs just behind the pancreas. Had it ruptured, death would have been instantaneous. Most people when they see the scar ask if I was slashed by a chain saw. It is indeed in every sense of the word a "saber slash."
It was several months later, after graduating from ICU, while being checked by the doctor that I asked him about the surgical procedure. He told me that when they opened the diaphragm the entire body cavity was filled with necrotic tissue. Being a Greek student, I knew he was saying that I was filled with gangrene. "What did you do then?" I asked.
"We cut away as much as we could reach but then we had to stop!"
"Why didn't you finish the surgery?"
"Because you would have died on the table...we thought we would lose you anyway."
He told me they didn't even bother sewing me up because they knew I was going to die anyway. They placed a wet towel over the saber slash and sent me back to my room to die.
I asked him if he really thought I was going to die.
And he told me it was not a matter of IF I was going to die but rather WHEN; they all knew I was going to die. There are many things worse than death. One can reach the point where death would be the greatest blessing of life.
My surgery had taken place on March 5, 1986, six weeks after the onset of my initial attack; Dr. Benner's suspicions were correct, his diagnosis: acute hemorrhagic pancreatitis. An abscess had formed on my pancreas and had ruptured into my body cavity. The "fluid" made up of infectious poison and enzymes destroys or "eats up" everything it touches and keeps spreading to all parts of the body. Another man about my age was admitted to Munson Hospital with the same disease and he only lasted two days.
The sentence of death was upon me and there was only one person in the universe that I could turn to, my heavenly Father, who states in His Word, "I wound, I heal, I kill, I make alive." Life is His to take or give. My condition was classified beyond critical to grave. There was no hope. The nurses in ICU would hug Martha and tell her there was no change. Actually, there was no chance.
My body began to swell and I continued to vomit the sickly, black fluid. Once again, the horrible nightmare started, the incessant pain, the terrible retching and vomiting; a kaleidoscope of horror.
Dr. Benner said we had to go in again, something was wrong...I was getting worse instead of better.
By March 23, the infection had continued for two months to spread throughout my entire abdominal cavity. It was necessary for them to remove all my organs to facilitate cleaning out the infection which had spread all the way around my ribs into my back. This sounds rather ghastly, but the saber slash had not been sutured after the first surgery since this facilitated the nurses cleansing out as much infection as they could reach. During the second surgery they removed my gall bladder and as much of the pancreas and gangrenous tissue as possible. Then they flushed out my whole body and inserted five large drains into my back with pumps on them to pump out the infection. Surgery required 12 units of blood and it lasted for about seven hours. Again, they did not suture the gaping wound across my stomach. The wound began to heal of its own accord from the inside out.
After returning from surgery, 28 tubes protruded in and out of my body; the average human body has seven openings. (Go ahead and count them). A machine accomplished my breathing and because of that there was no means of communication.
My family was horrified when they brought me back from surgery. Martha's reaction was that I looked like a monster! Again, my body was swollen at least three times the normal size. They had just covered me with a wet towel. The second "saber slash" was wide open and I was covered with blood...the sheet was covered with blood. "We knew you were going to die." The doctor said it could be at any moment.
"What is that?" I asked the cattle rancher in Wyoming, pointing to a little pen in a huge corral
"That is a 'squeeze pen'," he replied and explained that when the bull calves get big enough, they drive them one at a time into that chute. Then they pull a lever down and it pins him in so he cannot move. Then one of the cowboys takes a pair of tong cutters and cuts his horns off. (Not like cutting your fingernails, more like pulling them out at their roots. Horns differ from antlers. Antlers have no blood supply but horns do; and it is therefore a very painful experience). Then, another cowboy castrates him, and a third cowboy slaps a red-hot branding iron on him. When they release him, the poor critter runs off shaking his head and his whole body like he cannot decide which end hurts the most.
I was relating to that little steer (no longer a bull). My pain was insufferable--surgical pain, pancreatitis pain, pain from the multitude of tubes, pain from the required nursing procedures as they cleaned out my still open saber slash, and pain from insulin shots for my newly acquired sugar diabetes. A "laboratory vampire" was constantly drawing blood for a myriad of tests, and my saber slash was excruciatingly flushed out twice each nursing shift.
The doctors began what they called "getting on top of the pain." Injections of Demerol or morphine were given every two hours until the drug would build up and I would finally pass out. A nurse once injected 100 c.c. of morphine and asked if I could feel it? She said it had to help - it was enough to knock down a horse. It doesn't even touch the pain. There was no relief, the pain never stopped until I passed out. In spite of the powerful medication, the pain never subsided. After they diagnosed my condition, my mother in Mississippi asked her doctor how severe the pain was. His reply was that pancreatitis pain takes you right to the very door of hell, there is none worse.
I laid in bed with my legs drawn up in the fetal position. This is the only position in which a pancreatitis patient can tolerate the pain. The nurse would inject the medication into my hips, buttocks, or thighs. As each area became hardened, a new site had to be found. They even used my arms. The shot, in about 10 to 15 minutes, makes you feel like you have been submerged in warm water. In a very few moments, remarkably, the pain stops. I remember pulling the sheet up to my neck, as sleep came...the sleep of utter exhaustion like falling into a deep, black abyss. But in an hour or two, jarring pain would slap me back to reality.
I can understand why some people take drugs. They are hurting physically, mentally, or emotionally and for just a brief period of time they get relief from their own personal hell. I can even comprehend the senseless waste of suicide, when a person is pushed to the extreme limits of their endurance. Yes, I wanted to die. I begged God to take my life, many times. ANYTHING to stop the pain. Would I have committed suicide...if I had the means available? I like to think that my faith in God is unshakable...that I would not have taken that alternative. But I am glad I never had to face that choice.
Life as a patient in a hospital became sequences of total darkness, then blurred vision, and very slowly my sight would start to focus. There were faces of my children who had driven up from Grand Rapids. Patti, my youngest daughter, was still living at home with us and she was so faithful in visiting me. Their faces mirrored the sight they were seeing. How sad it was to look into their eyes and see the fear and hopelessness. My greatest desire was to tell them not to be afraid because I did not fear death and it would be so much better to go to my heavenly home. Then my lovely Martha would appear and she would smile so bravely although her sad eyes betrayed the personal emotional hell she was going through. I longed so much just to tell her how much I loved her but that was impossible because of the life support equipment.
There were faces of pastor friends who came to comfort and share God's Word with me and pray for God's will in my life. Pastor Earl Brewer read the Psalms to me, not even sure I was aware or comprehending what he was reading. Martha, day after day, spent much time just reading to me. It was during these times that the inner man was strengthened and the spiritual and emotional healing started to take place. The inner man was being healed and strengthened but the outer man was perishing.
2 Corinthians 4:16, "For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day."
Life support system, last heroic measures, became the final step in the progression of my ravaged body because of the severity of the pancreatitis infection. I could not communicate with my family to say our final words of goodbye. My lungs had filled with fluid and my kidneys had ceased to function. The death watch for me had begun and the doctors were just waiting for my weakened heart to stop. Death had become my roommate....
Only a small number of visitors were permitted to see me for a few short moments, even after traveling great distances. Don Vogel was allowed to visit very briefly and after returning to his home in Grand Rapids, told his wife, Bonnie, they were about to lose a good friend. Paul Deal, Executive Director of the Independent Bible Mission (IBM) came up from Grand Rapids to encourage Martha and get information about my progress. He needed to contact all the pastors affiliated with IBM to report my condition. He said that his true feelings could not have been published because he thought I was surely going to die, in fact, I was already a goner.
The nurses in the Intensive Care Unit see death every day and therefore, it is necessary for them to remain emotionally unattached. But in my case they became very close, like family, and emotionally involved even though they knew I was going to die, it was just a matter of time. But they also knew I was a Christian and had faith in God. It was completely out of the doctors' hands, only the Great Physician would determine the outcome of this latest chapter of my life. As terrible as my living nightmare was, it was nothing compared to Martha's struggle and what she was going through.
(This section, as related to me, occurred beyond the scope of my memory but portrays the emotional struggles of Martha, which mirror the physical suffering that I was experiencing).
CODE BLUE ...
During the time Dan spent in ICU, the average day of visiting the ICU ward consisted of about a twelve-hour day. Since it was still necessary for me to have a full leg cast, this became a difficult, monotonous routine. The only bright spot in my dull, gray world was when some of our dear church ladies would pick me up and take me to the hospital. And, of course, they would usually treat me to lunch.
At first, the hospital regulations limited visitation to five minutes every hour. This was a hardship, as it gave me so much time to think about every word the nurses and doctors had said, trying to read between the lines to see what they really meant.
"There is no change," their message was, hour after hour, day after day. The time seemed like eternity. But there was a comradery that developed between us; they gradually became my dear friends. These highly trained, nurses and doctors showered me with love and concern. Tears and hugs became the order of the day and hospital regulations soon didn't apply to me.
One day while sitting alone in the waiting room, over the loudspeaker came an urgent message to all the doctors on that floor. CODE BLUE, CODE BLUE, ALL DOCTORS TO ICU STAT; I REPEAT, CODE BLUE, CODE BLUE! ALL DOCTORS TO ICU. My heart jumped inside me and fear paralyzed my body. "No!! Please God, don't let it be Dan!" My mind was screaming a prayer of panic and desperation. One of the nurses came out later, as if she had a telepathic mind, realizing my terrible dread. "Dan is all right; the code blue was for the other man who had pancreatitis." This scenario was played out several times, and "Code Blue" terrorized me every time it came over the ward's loudspeaker.
Sanity can be a very fragile commodity and I needed to be continually helped if I was going to keep mine; fortunately, that help was provided. The only way a person can go through a catastrophic illness or a life and death ordeal is a deep personal faith in God. I'm not talking about religion but rather a relationship with God, as our heavenly Father. Without God I never would have made it.
Some people are quick to say if you need any help, give me a call, but it would be much better if they just volunteered to do the things that common sense would dictate. Darleen, a dear friend who also attended our church, would call and tell me to be ready to go to the hospital on a certain day and to plan on staying as long as I felt was necessary. Then there would be days when she would just go over and clean the house. Vickie would drive 50 miles to clean our house, when she was not visiting me at the hospital, being a pastor's wife, or raising three children of her own. Mrs. Church, would insist on driving me back and forth, encouraging me with prayers, presents, and devotional books to read during my vigil in ICU. Hugs and kisses, cards, flowers, food presents, food showers, and special treats were expressions of love from our dear friends who did not ask, "Is there something I can do for you?" Dan's constant struggle was about life and death, unspeakable pain and suffering, but mine was all mental and emotional anguish.
The Wedding of Sorrow ...
It was during this same time frame of my first pancreatitis surgery and my continuing stay in ICU that our older daughter Linda, who had been engaged for about six months was supposed to be married to a young man she had met in Bible school and whom we all had learned to love. The wedding date had been set and invitations had been sent to friends and family all over the country.
March seventh was to be the happiest day of Linda's life. The plan was for me to perform the marriage ceremony, with Jonathan's dad, also a pastor, taking part in the ceremony. Their wedding would be doubly blessed by having both their dads marrying them. But now circumstances had changed. I was deathly sick and scheduled to have surgery two days before the wedding. To be very realistic, it was possible or maybe even probable, that there could be a funeral as well.
Martha had asked the doctor about the chances of me being able to even attend the wedding. His response was, "I don't have a crystal ball," and he could not give any assurance or even encouragement. She also had a round-table discussion with Linda and Jonathan about postponing the wedding date until I could possibly attend, if not take part in the wedding itself. They decided to proceed with their plans since family was already coming from far away.
On the day of the surgery, as the doctor had a conference with Martha, his words were like punches from a professional boxer, "Dan is not doing well at all, in fact he could die at any moment."
She was faced at that point with a monumental decision: to go to Grand Rapids and be with her daughter on what should have been the happiest day of her life, or stay in Traverse City and be close to her husband in the event of his death. After much prayer and soul-searching, she decided to be with our daughter as a mother should, especially on her wedding day. She was well aware that my life had been committed to the Lord and that His will would be done concerning my life.
This terrible emotional struggle took place when I was oblivious to anything except fragments of shattered memories about surgery and events that transpired in ICU. In fact, it was several months later when the entire family had gathered around my bed in "2 East" that I asked Linda and Jonathan how the plans were coming for their wedding. Their response devastated me, "Dad, we're already married."
Life was going on without me and I had no purpose, no goal, I was not even a participant in the events of my family. My sorrow was deep. I sobbed uncontrollably! My heart was broken, and in deepest despair I once again longed for the quietness and solitude of death. The tears continued all night...tears are a language God understands. Psalms 56:8, "Thou numberest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle."
The video tape of the wedding was filled with heartbreak and tears, it was indeed a sorrowful wedding.
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