David Layman, retired pastor and a member of our congregation was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 5 years ago. He is undergoing a procedure to reduce the tremors. Read about David’s reflection on the past as he talks about the procedure.
The first stage of deep brain stimulation surgery: attaching my skull to a halo so it could be kept perfectly still while the brain is “mapped” for electrode placement with optimal benefit, and then placing these electrodes and leaving the ends “dangling” until this Friday. Then a small “generator” (similar in size to a heart pacemaker) can be placed beneath my collarbone and wires from it connected to the wires descending from my head. Out patient surgery this time. After another ten days or so when the swelling has gone down, they’ll turn on the little generator and via remote control see if they can dial back the amplitude of my tremor. We’re also hoping this procedure will mean I can cut back on my medication, which would be helpful. The body tends to require more and more of it with time, and negative side effects have already begun. My brother in law, when he heard I was having a generator installed, asked “The next time our power goes out, can we hook up David to our refrigerator?” He was, of course, joking!
I have felt people’s prayers. Last Friday morning (April 26), riding into IU-Meth. for surgery, my heart was warmed. I remembered how our daughter Rachel (now 33) was born that morning. 6 weeks prior to this our world was rocked when my mother was suddenly stricken with a brain aneurysm, and rushed to Bloomington hospital. She was given a 50/50 chance of living. And if she did survive, she might be very confused. I remember driving towards Bloomington from Greenville Ohio in tears praying “Please God, give me one more chance to tell Mom I love her.” We even stopped at a filling station pay phone in Indy, since Dad said there was a chance they might transfer Mom to IU Med Center in Indy. This was before cell phones were common, and I had some quarters in hand. A woman who happened to be in the station heard what was going on, stepped up to me and said “I’ve got plenty of change here for you if you need it.” I was in a daze, and after learning Mom was still in Bloomington, I dashed back to the car and off we drove. Only then did it hit me “I didn’t even think of making it a point of finding and thanking her. God sent “an angel” to offer assistance, and I just moved forward in a rush.
Back to the main point: Mom survived, but was seriously confused for some 6 weeks. She didn’t remember that Pam was expecting, which she had been told months earlier. She recognized those dear to her (a blessing!) But Mom would get very confused beyond that. Just before Easter, she was scheduled for shunt surgery, where a permanent tube would be placed in her brain to drain off excess spinal fluid and descend to her stomach. If successful, this surgery would hopefully move Mom beyond her confusion. A few days after the surgery, Mom’s confusion began to subside. When I called her hospital room after daughter Rachel Ruth (Ruth was Mom’s name) was born, I called to share the happy news. The joy of Rachel’s birth was added to the joy that when Mom answered the phone, Mom was no longer confused. The fear she’d never be herself again had fled.
So as I was riding into downtown Indy early April 26, I was thinking: Two wonderful things have happened on April 26: Daughter Rachel came into this world, and my Mother’s post brain aneurysm confusion, departed. Let’s go for three (successful deep brain stimulation surgery!)
I shared a condensed version of this with my brain surgeon Dr. Thomas Wit. He smiled and asked if I remembered the name of the surgeon. I admitted I didn’t, but have since looked it up. My surgeon, Dr. Witt, did not arrive at IU Med for another 4 years. But he had gotten to know Mom’s surgeon early in Dr. Witt’s time at IU Med Center. This connection reassured and comforted me, although Dad has now been gone 24 years, and Mom 18.
As I told our birthday daughter the morning of my surgery I viewed it as more than a blessed coincidence I was going to an IU Hosp. for surgery where wires from my brain would be installed to help me, as a tube from Mom’s brain brought us good news, on the day she was born 33 years earlier. God’s fingerprints were all over those events. Some people would say it was just coincidence that these blessings occurred on the same day. I also recall strong emotion welling up within me on the way to the hospital. Having served as a pastor for almost 10 years at this point, I had seen how sometimes, hospital staff might refer to a patient impersonally as”1 A”, as an inconvenience that they had to take care of before going home. If they did, I envisioned backing them up and forcefully saying “That person isn’t “1 A”! She’s my mother, and you’d better take good care of her!” But I soon learned that the nurse caring for Mom was the daughter of a minister. She and another nurse gave Mom wonderful care, and told us they were praying for Mom. Church members showed up at the Intensive Care waiting room, and I saw God’s servants working in different ways. Likewise, in my own hospitalization, I’ve felt God’s hand at work.
To God be the glory!