On Monday, January 11th, I tested positive for COVID. Didn’t seem like it would be horrible. I had a rough day on Saturday, as the young teacher that lives with us tested positive, so figured that was when I had become symptomatic. Was actually feeling better on Monday. Turned a little South on Wednesday with some serious back pain, but still thought it’d be a week and done. By Friday, I was miserable. Took until the evening to realize that the pain seemed much like a past pain, a Pulmonary Embolism (PE). Asked my beautiful wife, Katheryn, to take me to the hospital. She dropped me and went home. Nobody but the patient gets through the door. I presented with six Pulmonary Emboli, 3 in each lung, COVID pneumonia, hemoglobin dropping like a rock, kidney and liver numbers not looking great, blood sugar going crazy (with no food in me), fever of 102 and pulse oxygen O2 levels dropping into the 80’s (not good). I immediately came face to face with three COVID Truths. The first, the healthcare system is overwhelmed. There is no capacity for heroics, extra measures, or patience. It was, in the moment, remarkable that I was alive, let alone conscious. While I am certain they thought that this was one tough SOB, no doubt, there was no reason to remotely believe investment of time, energy and resources was worth it. Truth two: when no investment is worth it – catheterize them, put them on a morphine drip and oxygen, and move them to the ‘Waiting to Die’ zip code. Not sure I would have, or could have, disagreed with the assessment of my chances. I was a bad investment. ‘Waiting to Die’ was probably the right triage decision. Believe me when I say this, there is not a hint of condemnation, no judgement, or anything but the utmost appreciation and respect for these providers. This thing is of the foulest breath of Hell and those doing battle at great physical, emotional and spiritual risk are nothing short of some of the greatest heroes in history. I implore you all to love them, cherish them and encourage them. They are the best of us.
Then I was face to face with one of the hardest COVID Truths of all. Between mental confusion from COVID itself, low oxygen, a fever of 102, morphine and pain (if you have never had a PE, it is like getting shot in the chest, or for me and some others, like shot through the back - every breath excruciating; imagine six gunshots; pneumonia is no picnic either), it is impossible to advocate for yourself. For the first 12 hours, most of the time I had no idea where I was or what was going on.
For anyone who actually knows me, they know three things about me. I am madly in love with Jesus and His people. I am heartbroken for anyone who does not know Jesus (as in, like my deepest longing is to share the truth of who He is and help people to meet Him). And finally, that I am not afraid of anything! I mean literally nothing - personal safety, life, reputation - I truly could care less about what anyone thinks of me, beyond Jesus. I can name every time I have ever been afraid in my whole life. None were for my life or safety. All for those I love and the ache for their pain or danger. As I share this important story about the work of God in my life recently, I can share upfront that I experienced a new fear – running out of time. I believe there is something in this story for everyone, whether you know Jesus, hate Jesus, aren’t sure about Jesus, or are just curious about a real COVID story, read on.
The First Angel and Blessing.
Unbeknownst to me, my wife, Katheryn, had been advocating for me like a mad woman. Dropping off my CPAP machine and begging someone to put it on me. No one did. For whatever reason at some point, I had a moment of lucidity and realized that I had no call button, had no idea when the last time a human was in, but noticed a can of soda on my tray. Weird!? I picked it up and decided to wing it as hard as I could at the window. I wasn’t sure if it was glass or plexiglass, but thought, “I am in no matter what.” It might be spectacular or a dud. Heck, I might not even have the strength to reach the window. Turned out it was plexiglass, and it was loud and spectacular, and apparently, “pee your pants” terrifying for the young Pediatric ER nurse named K that was passing by. She came in. Dug into my case. Realized that Katheryn had brought my CPAP and got it on me. From a nursing family, her mom and sister both work at the hospital too, she sat with me, told me her story and we talked of Jesus. I understood my fear in the moment was, as expected, not about dying at all, but rather feeling I still had work to do - people to tell, churches to start, people to love the crap out of in His name. While oxygen did nothing to up my Pulse Oxygen level, the forced air from the CPAP rammed me up to 98% Pulse Ox (that thing did not come off the rest of the stay but for the total of 20 minutes, or so, I spent in the bathroom).
COVID Truth five is that if you are getting oxygen, you are getting better, or at least have a chance. The game changes! With increased oxygen, numbers get better, some confusion improves, pain is better managed, and the experience becomes more interactive. Finally, after 24 hours I got moved to the Intermediate ICU. During my 24 hours in the ER, the person on my left died and the young guy who I came in with had the Waiting to Die tag as I was taken up to my room. I pray he let his girlfriend know where he was. When we were in the waiting room, he had told no one knew he was there because they were all out at a party. I encouraged him to text just so she knew, and while it is all pretty hazy, I know we prayed, because he was terrified and very sick.
The next 24 hours was just about the battle. Fever, confusion, sleep, SWEAT, and a growing appreciation for the COVID Truths. As the greatest nurse of all time reviewed the COVID Truths with me upon arriving in the IM ICU in the first five minutes (her claim to be the ‘greatest nurse of all time’ when we met, and I cannot argue), she said, “you are either getting better or worse. Going up or down. And given that there is not much more down for you to go, you got to get this ship turned, and turned now. This 24-hour period will probably decide the outcome.” Battle on!
While the fever never really broke, it would wane for periods and I experienced some respite from the depth of confusion. In those moments, I experienced second fears for Katheryn and the kids. My wife and all four of my kids really love me. And I really love them. It is the greatest privilege and honor of my life to be Katheryn’s husband and father to these four kids. They are all the most amazing people I know. To be used by God even in the smallest part in them growing to be the people of His plan; world changers! I am humbled. And since they actually know me, they have lived with, although not always valued, my fearlessness. While it seems like nothing to me that I did not fear death, I am certain they did. My heart broke for them that it would be devastating, and I prayed that God would hold them through it if it came to pass. I worried that they would feel abandoned, sold short by God, or that they would think that I would choose death over them. To the four of you I say, “No man has ever loved his children more. Been prouder. Had more fun. Enjoyed the ever-living crap out of you all! I truly don’t ever want to leave you. But I think you know that I am not afraid to. And that is how I want you to live. Fearless! One day God will call me home. Tomorrow? 40 years? And when He does, it will be freakin’ awesome! I am pretty sure Skillet plays in heaven non-stop! And God will walk with you through the heartache and pain, growing you deeper into Him, reminding you that we are parted but for an eye- blink in eternity. You have all already lived through some of the hardest crap that life can throw at anyone. And God has showed Himself faithful. Over and over and over. Yo, God got you! Even now He is – Never Closer! Never more Faithful! Never more For You! Never more Wonderful to You!
Angels Two and Three and the Second Blessing
I did well enough in the battle that after 24 hours in the IM ICU that I could be moved to a COVID floor and we could start to look at the full extent of damage to other organs and possible outcomes. Kidney and liver numbers were looking a little better, blood sugar and hemoglobin a little better. Yay CPAP and Pulse Ox of 98%! But the real danger with PE’s is the heart. I needed to get an EKG and an Echo Cardiogram. As I moved to the COVID floor, I had the first real protracted period of lucidity. Upon arriving, I met my roommate, P, a really sick young man with Down’s Syndrome. He was already deep in COVID Truth - catheterized, morphine drip and oxygen. I also met Angel Number Two, my nurse, A. She was a part-timer. Completely overwhelmed. Clearly, in need of as much encouragement as she was desperate to give. But, in the battle with all her heart. She spent like 45 minutes with me and was committed to get the EKG team in there if it killed them (I had been scheduled 8 hours earlier). At the same time, a gunshot developed right on my sternum. I mean take your breath away, fat man sitting on your chest, expecting to be crushed to death, pain. Had no idea if it was PE, heart or just my body rebelling. The response was pretty quick. Crash team, EKG team and Nurse A with me. It got crazier in that they could not get a clear EKG. Everyone was freaking out. In this moment, enter Angel Number Three and the Second Blessing. Again, unbeknownst to me, Katheryn had reached out to one of the finest men of God I know, a nurse named G, who worked on the sister COVID Unit at the hospital and who serves in ministry at our church. He had guided her since day one of my admission as to how to advocate, and just happened to be on that night. In the very craziest of moments, he snuck up to pray with me! As Dr’s, nurses and technicians were going crazy trying to figure out my sternum gunshot, the inability to get an EKG and just what the heck was happening, G prayed with me and literally took me to the throne of God. I love that man! I am so looking forward to an eternity of praising God with that dude. Again, it was not about squashing fear, but centering me. After prayer, I was able to help them figure it all out (it really is just physics). I turned off the CPAP which was interfering electrically, and we were able get a good EKG. I probably shouldn’t say ‘good EKG’, it did not look perfect, but good enough to get me an Echo the next day. God is so freakin’ good! I went to sleep! Like, the sleep of a bear!
When I say I woke like me on Monday, only Katheryn could attest. I got up out of bed. Washed as best as I could, no showers and I was still hooked to 2 IV’s and a bunch of machines. Realized that in just 3 days of lying in a puddle of sweat, my back was shredded with open bed sores. Brushed My Teeth! Ate breakfast and FT’d the woman I love. Temperature was 98.6, Pulse Ox on CPAP was 98%, 4 AM blood work looked like significant improvement. Dr. E came in for rounds and we laid the plan for the Echo and pretty much got him to agree that if the Echo looked ‘good enough,’ and the fever was down, I was headed home tomorrow. Not optional. My entire team, inside the hospital and out, knew, understood, and were committed to the plan. In these incredibly bright, functional, and aware moments the Deepest COVID Truth became as clear as day. This pandemic may be playing out in the physical realm of disease and death, but COVID is a completely Spiritual battle. This is of Satan. In those moments, not only did I come to fully realize it, but I came to fully realize that they all knew it. Dr. E, the nurses, the technicians, everyone on the floor. They all knew. And I knew that if they could help me escape, they were in.
I am certain that Katheryn will tell you that the precipitous drop from the joy of the morning to the FT later in the day and the subsequent prayer request that evening absolutely devasted her. Satan doesn’t give ground without a fight. Had the Echo. It would go on to look ‘good enough.’ But by 2 PM my temperature was 102.2 and I was struggling for some air even on the CPAP. Pulse Ox down in the low 90’s. Confusion, fatigue, pain, struggle to breathe, disappointment, and despair.
Real Angels and the Ultimate Blessing
I guess there is a fourth thing that people who actually know me experience. I love prayer. I will pray anywhere, anytime, all the time, with anyone, for everyone. Even in the midst of my own tumble from the mountain top of the morning, I realized that P was having a very rough time. I was back-sliding, but he had not really eaten, his body was not functioning well, he was packaged for COVID Truth and simply lying in the bed repeating, “don’t let me die.” What does Karl do in the face of that? He and I needed Jesus. Now! So, I told him that I was about to pull out the big guns. That I was going to unleash the power of the Body of Christ on this foul Satanic crap and that he could expect some pretty wild stuff to go down in that room tonight. I brought up Jesus and he said, “not allowed to talk about Jesus.” I told him it was probably ok because I was the one talking about Jesus, not him. He agreed. Told him that Jesus knew him. Knew his situation. And that Jesus was fixin’ to intercede. I couldn’t tell him he would live, but I could tell him he is not alone and that there is no fear here, because if he does pass, Jesus will be waiting with arms wide open and he can’t imagine how amazing it’ll be. So, dude, a win/win. Either an Angel Army is showing up here tonight to heal and set us free, or standing post over fear until you are in Jesus’ arms. He thought that all sounded pretty good, and for the first time he muttered something different, “Jesus sending Angels.” I shared the plan with my nurses and aides, only again to realize that they all already knew the Deepest COVID Truth and supported anything that might level the field.
At this time, I sent the following Prayer Request in hopes of 1000 people praying for an Angel Army to appear. For the record, in my condition it took me hours to even remember the scripture and write it down.
FROM THE BATTLEFIELD - COVID’s Last stand
The battle has begun. COVID is making its last stand. On the surface I am getting my butt handed to me. Spiking a fever and some shallow breathing. Luckily, not my fight. Never closer. Never more Faithful. Never more for me. Never more wonderful to me. It ends tonight. Trust me, to go home and be with the God surrounding me right [in this] moment would be my joy. No regrets. But I am convinced that I will see revival and my dying breaths will be in that pursuit.
“You come against me with a sword, spear, and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord of Armies, the God of the ranks of Israel—you have defied him. Today, the Lord will hand you over to me. Today, I’ll strike you down, remove your head, and give the corpses of the Philistine camp to the birds of the sky and the wild creatures of the earth. Then all the world will know that Israel has a God, and this whole assembly will know that it is not by sword or by spear that the Lord saves, for the battle is the Lord’s. He will hand you over to us.” (1 Sam 17:45-47)
So I need prayer! Not, Oh Holy God please intercede ... stuff. I need:
God, you freakin got this! Surround, defend, slaughter and protect, heal [and] restore. TODAY LORD, hand COVID over to me. Do what only you can do! Redeem me, redeem us, redeem your calling. Bring revival now. Refine us and proof us. Mark us for your purposes. Strip everything between us and your call. Kill what needs killing that we truly die to self and live for you. I’m home tomorrow! One way or the other.
This is no longer about physical warfare. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:37-39)
Get pumped! We win!
Please share this with everyone you want. I need freaking prayer. Angel armies run on prayer! Thousands sounds about right!
If you really want to join the battle this is my COVID Killer Playlist on loop! The Lion is roaring!”
I have no idea how many people prayed. I know a lot. I have no idea how many, if any braved the playlist. But I put it on shuffle, strapped in with my headphones on and prayed till I slept. I should be clear. I did not think that I was going to die that night. I did think that there was a chance that P might, if not die, move to the next phase of unconsciousness and organ failure. But what I did think was that COVID was not going to let me go easily. I might not die that night, but I was in the mix master, and if I did not get out of there, COVID might well win my body. I really did understand and believe when I strapped in, that This Was the Moment. My team seemed to understand and ratify that as well. As the battle started - fever 102.4, Pulse Ox 90%, breathing strained, Oxycodone on board (thank you my darling wife – so much better than morphine) and it looked like this:
For those of you who have not heard, or braved the playlist, the first song, Again, performed by an awesome Texas band in 2007 named Flyleaf, was written by the amazing Lacey Sturm. The words are:
"I love the way that your heart breaks
With every injustice and deadly fate
Praying it all be new
And living like it all depends on you"
"Here you are down on your knees again
Trying to find air to breathe again
And only surrender will help you now
I love you, please see and believe again"
"I love that you're never satisfied
With face value, wisdom, and happy lies
You take what they say and go back and cry
You're so close to me that you nearly died"
"They don't have to understand you
Wait and know I understand you
Be still, be still"
See and believe!
In Lacey Sturm’s own words this is a song about Surrender:
"It is written for people like me, who feel a restlessness to make the world better somehow but are much too small to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. It’s to say, you have the right heart, but you weren’t meant to carry it all. You are so strong, you are able to handle so much! But you can’t handle everything all at once. Let go! God’s big and He can handle it all better than you! It’s okay to let go and not understand everything. I should start a control freak support group... Anyone interested? Maybe this song will help us. I sing it to myself 'Only surrender will help you now..' And then I let go."
- Lacey Sturm
This was not Karl’s battle. Surrendering and allowing God to do what He does is perhaps the some of the hardest and bravest stuff we can do. Thank you, Lacey! You continue to impact my life and the Kingdom in profound ways.
The world might not understand us, but He who created us does. Psalms 46:10 says, "Be still and know that I am God." In the moments of the picture, this was what my surrender looked like.
At 12:19 AM I was awakened by a nurse I didn’t know. Apparently, P was wildly agitated and insisted they wake me. All I heard was, “hey, hey, hey Col (P could not say the R in my name) the room is full of Angels. Big ones, little ones and regular ones. Jesus sent Angels. I believe.” There were many things in there that struck me in the moment. At first, I was stuck on, what are the regular ones? Then it hit me that P said he believed. Several times. We had not discussed anything to do with belief, or any words like that. What a crazy moment. I felt as though it was God offering me assurance that we were all good. Boy did I cry. Crying still. And then all Hell broke loose. And when I say broke loose, believe me, the Deepest COVID Truth is Gospel True. This is Spiritual Warfare. I had no idea that several nurses had come down with COVID on G’s ward. This necessitated the shifting of a bunch of nurses around while I slept, and all of those in on the deal were gone. Clearly, this was part of the battle! As those subs rushed in take up for the other team. I thought for a moment that the young nurse I didn’t know even morphed into a demon. We are talking head spinning around, pea soup, gravelly voice, and she screamed into my face, “How dare you manipulate this poor man. Filling his head with fantasy and hope. There are no Angels in this room.” As P continued to say, “Jesus sent Angels,” I replied to her that she knew darn well the room was full of Angels. I couldn’t see them, but I knew they were there. What was important was that the one who needed to see them, could see them. She went nuts. She went and got the substitute Charge Nurse who took up the same battle with me. It was beyond insane. Luckily, not my fight. Never closer. Never more Faithful. Never more for me. Never more wonderful to me.
The next couple of hours were even crazier. We could hear all kinds of yelling, crying and screaming across the ward. P’s IV drip finished, and the machine alarms went off. The staff did not come. After calling out to the nursing station several times, they turned off our call buttons. And the machine beeped on. P proclaimed the Angels. Karl prayed. And an Angel Army did battle. At 2:32 AM a Nurse Manager appeared. Extremely professional, dispassionate, and clearly not wanting to engage the issues. I reproached the nursing team, told her it was beyond unprofessional, unethical, or even remotely reasonable. She agreed. Order was restored. Temperature 98.4, Pulse Ox 98%, and blood work taken. Finally got back to sleep around 4 AM for at least ten or twelve more trips through the playlist.
Was awakened by the wonderful Nurse N. We shared the story of the previous night through tears and celebration. Temperature 98.6, Pulse Ox 98%, blood work trending up and able to get out of bed to get cleaned up. Got Katheryn on the phone. Started to debrief a little, but before we even got rolling, Dr. E came flying in. In testimony to the Deepest COVID Truth, he said, “we gotta get you out of here in the next hour.” He was besides himself with excitement and encouraged Nurse N to do whatever had to be done to get me out the door. I would not be surprised if there was even a tear of joy in his eyes. There was in mine.
And then, the single most amazing thing I have ever witnessed happened. P’s body came to life. They had tried everything to jump start this guy’s intestines. To no avail. While more of a medical truth than a COVID Truth - gurgles, bodily functions, coughs, wheezes, farts, burps, etc., mean you are alive. When packaged for COVID with none of that going on, you are dying. When I say that P’s body came alive, it is the grossest of understatements. His body exploded! All over the bed, the walls, the floor, the chair next to the bed. It was glorious! I had not heard the brother cough, sneeze, fart or burp the whole time we had been together. Suddenly he was doing it all! All at once! And he moved! When I left him, he was butt naked, sitting in a chair, eating some oatmeal. Smiling and repeating, “Jesus sent Angels Col.” He asked if Angels would come again that night. I said that I was pretty sure they were still there, just hard to see in the daylight. Told him that folks were praying and reminded him that Jesus has got this, and him. His smile in response at that moment is making me cry even now.
There were a lot of tears with Nurse N. She was honest that she did not want me to leave. But she, like Dr. E, realized it was now or never. In reality, she too, like Nurse A and so many fighting on this Battlefield, needed as much encouragement as she was wanting to give. I can’t imagine the ache in celebrating a small victory balanced against the loss of some respite encouragement walking out the door. Her honesty and care for me was humbling. These folks are the best of us!
It was hard to leave. I wanted to stay with P. I wanted to stay and encourage N and the others. But I was desperate to get home. Desperate to see my wife and daughter. Talk to my other kids. In the purity of the COVID Battlefield and Truths, everything is crystal clear. To be so entrenched in truth and reality is raw and energizing spiritually. Through it, I was reminded that you are only really living when you are completely surrendered and solely dependent on God. There is a huge difference between being alive and Living! Please watch this music video by Mercy Me (yes, the I Can Only Imagine dudes) if you want a deeper understanding.
It is worth the 4 minutes and says it better than my words could. Guessing 90% of y’all will be wildly confused by the joy in a story in which a man wakes from sepsis only to find all four of his limbs amputated and realizes he is now really living for the first time. That is my experience. And again, because it is worth repeating, you are only really living when you are completely surrendered and solely dependent on God.
This has really been an immersion into a depth of truth and reality that has been transformative. And so, for the rest of this story I just want to talk about truth and reality. Let’s start with the whole truth. The Gospel. The God who was, is and eternally will be, who created all things, for His Glory chose to make mankind His crowning creation. He did so knowing full well that we were not capable of transcending ourselves and would rebel. But in His rich mercy and love for us, He had laid the plan from before creation to redeem, make new and restore, so that we could enjoy Him, and He enjoy us, for eternity. He did this through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus. So that whoever believes, is in on the deal. We are made eternal creatures. This is all about with whom, and where, we spend eternity. If you haven’t given it a moment’s thought, let me just say that eternity is a really long time.
Can I tell you why God would choose to do any of this? Nope. Do I understand how horrifically offensive it is to say that this is the only true reality? Yep. But that is the hard part about truth and reality for humans. It really doesn’t matter what I think, you think, or anyone thinks. In fact, it is the thing that created and maintains separation from God. We just don’t like not having it our way. Being less than anyone. Even God. We want our say. Our desires. We need to be Special. In the belly of COVID Truths, I thoroughly enjoyed the stark reality of it. There is no Special. No, our way. There are no right or wrong opinions, no preferences, no ability to change the rules and complete transparency regarding the absolutely transcendent reality regarding the Deepest COVID Truth. Everyone on this Battlefield, independent of belief, religion, or worldview knows that this is a Spiritual Battle. Incredibly beautiful in its simplicity and purity.
In slowly returning to the world, not as easy, or even desirable, as you would think, I find that returning to the chaos of ‘man’ thinking that he has any real answers beyond God – really just makes me sad. I find myself spending much of my time praying for revival, or quite frankly for Jesus to just come back and get this over with. Unfortunately, then I am moved to tears for those who would be lost if He did. So, it leaves me at revival. God has graciously given me more time. It will be spent on one thing.
As we part, just a couple of more truths to leave you with.
If you call yourself a Christian, here are three truths that should mold your life, ministry, engagement of the world, and everything you do:
If there is even the slightest hint of ‘about you’ in it, it is not ‘about God.’
If it is not about ‘your good’ and ‘His Glory,’ it is not about God. [where ‘your good’ is solely defined as becoming more like Christ]
If people are not being loved, lives are not being changed and the Gospel proclaimed, it is not about God.
For those who have hung in there and read this whole stinking long thing and were intrigued by the story, but less enthused about the God stuff, your commitment has been appreciated. I am hoping you may even have some stuff to think about. Please accept some final offense:
Truth is truth. Reality is reality. You don’t have to believe it, like it, or ever accept it. It is, completely independent of your desired truth, reality, or worldview. It doesn’t care what you think.
God is madly in love with you. I know, pretty freakin’ offensive. You may not believe in Him, accept His existence, or may hate Him with every cell in your body. And He just goes on loving you. Really offensive stuff. Again, you don’t have to believe it, like it, or ever accept it. It is, completely independent of your desired truth, reality, or worldview. While I am certain He cares deeply what you think, it will not change what He does. He will go on being madly in love with you, like it or not. Truth is truth. Reality is reality.
And finally, the most offensive thing I can say. You are being prayed for right this minute. Yep. I am doing it. Yep. I am recognizing your desperate need for God and your inadequacy. Hate me for it. I am ok with that. But truth is truth. Reality is reality. We are eternal creatures. The thought of that eternity being spent apart from God for anyone absolutely destroys me. Your offense and hate seem trivial to me in comparison.
In the end, know that I have not, and am not, enjoying COVID. I am still deep in the battle. Six PE’s and COVID Pneumonia will take a while to overcome physically. But I have thoroughly enjoyed the journey. The reminders of Truth and Reality. The refining of perspective and commitment to His purposes. To get a chance to walk faithfully through the Battlefield and drag a survivor along - absolutely humbling that God would allow that. To be in the presence, and have a chance to encourage, even a few of the very best of us caring for the broken and dying, way beyond humbling.
Never closer. Never more Faithful. Never more for me. Never more wonderful to me.
Be still. See and believe!
A note from Katheryn:
Fear. Overwhelming and overriding all else. Fear based largely on uncertainty as I was unable to be present at the hospital to observe Karl’s condition, advocate for him, and supplement the hospital staff. But fear also borne out of knowing how dire his condition was, how impotent I was to influence his treatment and care, and how little control he or I had in determining the outcome. So I cried a lot, prayed a lot, and begged everyone to pray with me. I spent hours on hold with the hospital switchboard waiting to get even 2 or 3 minutes with someone who could lay eyes on my husband and tell me he was still breathing. I begged them to put his CPAP on right away knowing only that it would help him sleep and surely his body needed sleep if he was to survive. I had no idea that the forced air of the CPAP would itself be a lifesaver. As I now understand, Karl’s condition was too serious for the hospital to consider putting him on a ventilator, his chances of survival too slim to waste that precious resource. So his CPAP was his ventilator, and it literally saved his life.
COVID is a wild unpredictable rollercoaster ride. The more debilitating symptoms (pain and exhaustion) come in unexpected waves as one day, one minute, you can be feeling almost normal and the next day or minute, you feel utterly spent, barely able to lift an arm. The disease hits everyone differently. So our high-risk asthmatic daughter suffered only mild symptoms - she was really tired for a couple days and slept through some classes. While I normally resist almost every disease that plagues our home and even ran 7 and 5 miles after the other members of our family had succumbed to COVID, it hit me first with a headache that felt rather like a really big heavy and too small helmet was on my head making it hard to focus or think. Because I also experienced the core body ache that Karl complained of, we both thought that must be a typical course for the disease. Karl’s inhumanly high tolerance for pain masked the fact that he was getting shot in the chest with each blood clot that manifested in his lungs. That is also different about COVID. Our prior experience with pulmonary embolism (PE) was more typical - a blood clot developed in his leg after ankle surgery, broke loose, and traveled up to his lung. But COVID does not seem to work that way. Karl still has had no evidence of a lower extremity blood clot as the source of his PEs. Instead, they seem to have developed directly in the lungs. So that was the other thing I did with my time while Karl was in the hospital - I read everything I could find about COVID and blood clots. I learned one thing despite the fog in which I operated - we really do not understand COVID yet. This is not a simple influenza. It is indeed a rollercoaster, and as our daughter Monet said when I left to pick up Karl from the hospital - we want off the ride and we want our money back.
The day before he was discharged from the hospital, I thought we were in the clear. We had a long FT call in the morning in which Karl seemed almost normal. He was smarter, more articulate, able to have a conversation. Dr. E had seemed optimistic that if the Echo Cardiogram came back clean enough, Karl could come home. I felt the tension in my body easing. You can only imagine how the sudden drop and whip of the rollercoaster felt when we spoke later that day and Karl was in pitched battle for his life - again. But this time was different. As his text message said, this was a spiritual battle and I understood that it was one of those determining moments in this war, that either we would win or lose the war in the outcome of this particular battle. In that moment, my fear changed. I surrendered the war and this battle to Jesus. Completely. And with the surrender I gained peace, still fearful, but somehow a still kind of fear, like that before a battle when you put on your armor and take up your sword “so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:11–17 (NIV). I knew Karl was not afraid to die, but I was not ready for him to meet Jesus just yet. So I sent out his prayer request to everyone I could think of - people who did not even know he had COVID got the request out of the blue from me late on Monday night. And they joined me in prayer. I don’t even know how many people prayed that night, only that everyone I asked responded to the call and many forwarded it to others. I listened to the COVID Killer Playlist on repeat for hours. And I, along with so many others, prayed. We prayed for Angel armies.
Just after midnight I got the following text from Karl: “P just had the nurse wake me to tell me our room was full of Angels! He believes.” Me, too.