PRAISE THE LORD, PASTOR ESPOSITO SPOKE HIS FIRST AUDIBLE WORDS TODAY!
"That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the Lord hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it." (Isaiah 41:20)
"Help me , O Lord my God: save me according to thy mercy: that they may know that this is Thy hand; that thou, Lord, hast done it." (Psalm 109:26-27)
Thank you so very much for praying over the past fifteen months for Pastor Esposito. And thank the Lord for His goodness and His mercy. For how far Pastor has come—God gets ALL the glory.
Someone asked me the other day if I think the changes are due to a new medicine. I said, "No, it's God." (Really he'd started two new medications, and one natural remedy that I'd been seeking approval on since the start and also a different method.) I replied that anything that "works" is because of God.
I have written this before, but humanly speaking, Pastor Esposito wasn't supposed to make it off the operating table, wasn't supposed to "wake up", wasn't supposed to move, and I am sure speaking was never anywhere near a slight possibility in any doctor's mind. We were given no hope (well, no more than a 10% chance on waking from coma, but not with functionality.) From the start and along the way, anything at all anyone could do, any therapy, any medication, any method—none of it was ever promised or expected to make any significant difference.
A long while back in the earlier days, while praying about a certain decision the doctor was waiting for me to make, I was really struggling on what to do at that moment. I picked up my Bible, and I read, "In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good." At that moment I felt that God impressed upon me to go ahead because who knowest whether shall prosper? I sort of made a decision along the way that anything God sent my way that seemed right and safe and reasonable and I was able to get a doctor's counsel and okay on, I would try. We've prayed that God would direct me in this way. (For minor type things, I didn't think it was necessary to bother the doctors, like a certain cream. We just added those to the daily routine on our own.)
Every day, there are a multitude of different things on the schedule we follow. (Honestly, there are so many ideas we have found by researching or folks from all over have sent us that some are still on the waiting list!) Even this diet, we've sought approval to change, but it was a "no" many times. Then due to high blood sugar, it was changed. Now today due to other circumstances, it seems a good possibility we may be able to get a "yes" on our prayer. We just trust that God knows what's best at the moment, and trust His timing as well. (I'm not pretending that we don't feel impatient many times or that God doesn't have to bring us back to that place frequently as we seek Him.)
As Pastor has already progressed so much further than predicted, we have no idea what God has chosen to use physically speaking. We simply know that a whole bunch of you have joined us in prayer that God would work a miracle, and we have seen God little by little bring bits of healing at a time and many miracles. It doesn't matter to us what He's chosen to use. We know that He alone is the Great Physician, so to God be the glory.
Now I know folks want to know the specifics of what happened. As I stated in the last update, Pastor has been trying to lip words and even trying to get sound out while unable to get more than air out. Today, my soon to be daughter-in-law was there. I had tried to explain the new method to her and the underlying philosophy of helping his brain to become aware again of the working of the body. She decided to experiment with the method (We are always trying to do something new and creative to "wake up" the neuron connections!). She talked to him about the logistics of breathing when she took flute lessons and the working of vocal chords. She placed the back of her fingers against the vocal chords as she asked him to do "ahhh" and out came the voice! She was so excited that she wanted to ask a real question requiring an answer. I had told her that this morning as I was playing a speech video for him (they were going through colors), I had asked him what color my hair is. He had looked up and said, without any sound, "brown." So she asked, "Preacher, what color is my hair?" And in an audible voice he replied, "black." She was excited and went to the hall to get the RT outside the door to come hear him say something. She also asked him to say, "Mary" and "I" "love" "you" (practicing for me), and he did each. Soon he was tired, so she let him sleep. A while later, Bruce came in to replace Cindy and also the RNA. Cindy said, "I want to show you something." I don't remember all the details, but Bruce asked Pastor how he is, and in a clear audible voice he said, "I'm fine." That's when Bruce called me and said, "Preacher spoke, he said, 'I'm fine.'" I text the family at that point without knowing the whole story. Eventually, many staff were in the room and heard him say words. Cindy said he had a big smile. AGAIN, Praise God. This was our main prayer in the last update (that he'd make sound). Thank you all for praying.
You might also like to know that last night my son Timothy told Pastor he was going to do something different for his finger exercises, so instead of "lift this finger or that" he asked him to put up the right number of fingers. He asked him simple math questions like 2+2, and Timothy and Benjamin said that he got 100%. How neat! It's exciting to see that God has allowed him to have various levels or areas of cognizance like distinguishing color or the reasoning required to do a math problem. (The three younger children were actually playing the "Bible Challenge" DVD game a couple weeks ago and said he was trying to use fingers to answer the multiple choice questions, but I hadn't watched him as he did.)
Another exciting thing was on Sunday afternoon some out of town guests came up the sidewalk outside and said, "Hi Preacher, how are you?" He lifted his hand way up with a "thumbs up."
A Few Specific Prayer Requests
Thank you again for laboring for us all in prayer! God is good…all the time.
P.S. I do want to thank all of the doctors, RN's, RNA's, CNA's, RT's, Neurosurgeons, Neurologists, Physiatrist, Pulmonologist, therapists, and a host of others (I am sure I am missing some) that have done all that they could do to care for my husband and advise us the very best they could under what has been a worst case scenario. I fear in some way I may have at times sounded ungrateful for all of the effort and care many, many have given to my husband at points when we've wished they could give us some hope that really only God Himself could give. I am sure that many are the times that family members like ourselves want you to be miracle workers and have all the answers! We are very grateful for each of you! We don't know what we'd have done without this huge team of people that have taken part from the first night when no doubt God gave us some of the best neurosurgeons there are to save his life to where we are today. I believe God hand-picked each of you and used you in the way He has seen fit. Thank you for being used of the Lord!
I read last night from Colossians before going to sleep, "Epaphrus, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, ALWAYS LABOURING FERVENTLY FOR YOU IN PRAYERS, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you." (Col. 4:12-13) I was reminded how important my own prayer for others is, and also reminded of so many folks that "labor in prayer" for my husband and family and our church. I wanted to take a moment once again to say, "THANK YOU, SO VERY MUCH!" One of the greatest encouragements we have is to know folks are praying. It means the world to us.
I hope your holidays were good. We spent Christmas morning, after going to breakfast with the children, with Pastor Esposito. We packed up our gifts for him and one another, and set up "Christmas" under the gazebo on the patio at the facility. We enjoyed it, and I believe he did as well. It was a great idea that my daughter-in-law had as we were trying to plan out the day.
I also went to the mountains for our annual teen camp with the children New Year's week as is our custom. I missed it last year, and we decided it would be good for me to go last minute this year. I think it was very good for me to get away those few days. I also had a lot of alone time to take snowy prayer walks in the forest and to plan for the new year. My daughter, who is a senior this year, said spiritually speaking it was the best camp ever.
Daily, I am amazed at how very far God has brought us over the last year. Lately, I have been telling my husband, "Joe, do you realize that a year ago you could do nothing? That doctors never expected you to wake up? God has brought you SO FAR you are doing so well." Yesterday, when the nurse came in to bathe him, he was exercising his own left arm, bending it at the elbow up and down as if lifting weights (it's one of the daily exercises we do with him). I told him just a little over a year ago he was in ICU, and his hands were lifeless and cold as ice.
A couple of days ago our own missionaries, the Vong Family, came to see Pastor. (What an encouragement they were to me!) Bro. Vong told Pastor that they were done with deputation and leaving the following day for Cambodia. He said they had traveled over 100,000 miles. Pastor was looking at him and listening intently, and to that he mouthed, "WOW!" Not just a simple "wow." It contained all of the expression and personality of Pastor Joe Esposito. That was a big "WOW" to all of us. (I remember our excitement when he first raised his eyebrow a tiny bit—his first facial expression.) Lately, he had been repeating, "I love you" if I asked him, and often trying on his own to lip things we can't figure out; but this was so clear and so expressive. The Vong children spoke to him one by one, and he looked to each of them in interest. What a blessing! Thank you, Vong family. Our church folks who have been to visit, have also been excited at the increased responsiveness and ability to turn his head and eyes and be attentive. He has responded what looks like "fine" and "good morning" to nursing staff as well. Praise the Lord.
He is doing well with holding himself up straight when we sit him up with minimal support. He is getting stronger, it seems. Last week, I asked him to tilt his head up and down putting his chin to his chest, and he did it very well. This is a big step. He is also turning his head while sitting. He still seems to have some sort of balance problem or something that causes him to tense greatly on his left side. We can get him very relaxed and looking out the window, then when we tilt him forward and side to side he tenses up—particularly his left arm stiffens and pushes. We continue it each week day, and it seems to be helping him. I am hoping he will be allowed to stand again soon.
Most everything that we ask Pastor to do (reasonable requests that push him just a little bit as the physiatrist encouraged), he will try to do like with bent knee – tip it in and out, put your tongue out to the left or to the right, push my hand away, etc.
We are continuing daily with the PMV valve, and he is doing very well with it. He doesn't act distressed as he used to, only for a moment. His cough and swallow seem much better and more reflexive. He tries really, really hard to make sounds when I ask him to do an "ahh" or "mmm," but thus far no voice has come out. I hear the voice in the cough, so I know it's still there. Please pray for him to be able to make some sound. The speech therapist had said a while back that it would be good for him to hear his own voice and maybe motivate him to do more.
I plan to have the practitioner that I mentioned in the last update come again. I waited for the holidays to pass and e-mailed her yesterday to see when her next available time is. We are also checking into getting the device that will track his eyes and allow him to communicate. Joseph asked him yesterday if he thinks he can do that, and Joseph said he lifted his head way up and looked right at him and nodded in a big way. Joseph also practiced having him look at different places on the computer screen to test how he thought he'd do with it. Hopefully, we will be able to do this very soon. I joked that he will finally be able to communicate with his wife that probably really frustrates him on a daily basis—not knowing what he wants to communicate to me and guessing wrongly. Sarah had said we needed to buy the 20 questions game. Sometimes I know he's trying to "tell me something," but I can't figure it out; and we both give up eventually after I ask him many things and he shakes his head no to all of them.
On New Year's Eve, I glanced back through my Bible at verses I had marked where God showed me something. I came across Psalm 109:26-27. "Help me , O Lord my God: save me according to thy mercy: that they may know that this is Thy hand; that thou, Lord, hast done it." Like Isaiah 41:20 that has been hung above my husband's bed for the last 15 months, this is our prayer. That God would do something extraordinary…that all would know that it was HE who had done so…that He'd receive the glory. Thank you for joining us in this prayer.
This Christmas season we'd like to thank our Savior for coming to earth to be born to die that we might have life… but not only life, life abundantly, a life of "peace on earth." Praise God we can find peace in Him while on this earth! We'd also like to thank you once again for following this site and for your faithful prayer this past year.
Please forgive me for having taken way too long to write this update. I have thought much about it, and about all those of you who read to know how to pray and to praise the Lord. Partly, I have procrastinated due to extreme business, partly because I have thought round and round in my mind about how to write this update and what to say. So I'll do my best to be open and give you a better view of what is happening. I may be a little long in order to be thorough.
Over six months ago, the neurosurgeon (based upon the response he saw, and the need to do something proactive) wrote an order for Pastor Esposito to see a physiatrist (fĭz′ē-ăt′rĭst or fĭ-zī′ə-trĭst). I suppose we looked forward to that appointment with both anticipation and hope as well as a bit of hesitation not desiring to be disappointed by unfulfilled expectations.
Finally, on December 8th, the appointment came. Pastor Esposito, as I said in the brief update that week, was very responsive. It was exciting, while at the same time it broke my heart, to see how very hard he tried to do what he could to show the doctor, "I'm in here, and I hear and understand!" She asked if he could raise his eyebrows, and you wouldn't have known that anyone could raise them that quickly or high up. She asked him to point his toes up, and though he pressed the wrong direction, he quickly pressed both of his feet far forward, including the weak side that has little movement still. He raised his arm at her request, tried as best he could to open his mouth to "say hi," and opened his hand all the way up, etc. The physiatrist asked the history, asked many questions, looked at his medications, etc.
She then focused on the topic of medications:
I don't know how to describe what my hope or expectation WAS. Perhaps a test with a grade that placed him on a rising scale? An evaluation that gave me some prediction based on his progress so far? A name for his present state? The physiatrist said that the various coma or brain injury scales, etc. don't really "fit" his present situation, though she did tell me he is NOT considered in a coma any longer (some have asked). I guess I knew that my expectation of those types of answers was unrealistic, though I still hoped. And I was reminded once again that God remains the only one in control and only He knows our future and what He has planned for us, and what He has planned is what is best. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. (Jeremiah 29:11)
If I were to recap the appointment, it would be to continue what we are doing, take a few more steps, push just a bit harder… seek progress. She mentioned some ways to do so. For example to have him in the chair twice per day for two hours instead of 3 hours once per day.
I asked about the tracheotomy as well. She said it was not her area of expertise, but that I should talk with the pulmonologist at the facility that sees him regularly about potentially trying the pmv valve for longer periods of time. (I did speak with the pulmonologist since and this has begun, So far, he has seemed to do well with it other than a slight decrease in oxygen, according to one RT, but within safe range. Doing this should strengthen his lungs and diaphragm.)
The physiatrist then asked me if I had any questions. It was one of those moments that are hard to know what to say. I have a million questions that flood my mind endlessly every day, to which I wish I had answers. I hesitated and asked her, "what questions should I ask?" I tried to explain to her that I have been hoping and looking for some answers, at least guidance. She helped me to step back and see that #1 the neurosurgeon was proactive in writing the order for me to go there. Then the neurologist was proactive in trying the earlier medication. And now she had laid out a few steps we could take to try to push forward a bit in various areas. She said let's try these steps and then bring him back in two months to evaluate. I tried to smile and I asked, "are you telling me to 'be patient'?" (It seemed so.) She responded basically that I had been very patient, but that we needed to take the steps we could.
Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him! The verse I have quoted to my husband countless times.
I also asked her perspective of going home, same answer. Be patient (in different words). Focus on the steps you can take and take them rather than looking at where you want to be. Help him to get strong. (my translation)
Seems on the surface the answer is an oxymoron—wait, be patient…take steps, push. God brought to my mind the verses "Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord." I looked them up. If you read the places that was written, they weren't standing still in the sense of not moving forward, it was a resting, depending trust in the Lord while taking the steps he gave them to take.
THE SECOND APPOINTMENT was on December 11th. It was with a practitioner using a different method. I was referred to this method by the author of My Stroke of Insight which I was recommended to read when we were in the ICU initially. Insurance will not cover this method, but having read the related book Children Without Boundaries it seemed very much that it may be something helpful to try giving the brain awareness of parts of the physical body it seems unaware of. (It was mentioned that perhaps he has "right neglect" though sometimes it seems so but not others.) I plan to have the practitioner see him at least a few times. The first appointment the practitioner seemed to just be trying through movement to get to know him and the movement he does and does't have. Please pray that God will use this method if His will to bring him along as well.
Early this morning, surgery was done to replace the feeding tube. The procedure went well, and there are no restrictions. Praise God one of the technicians who traveled in the ambulance to the hospital with Pastor excepted Christ as Savior this mornng! I won't give the details here, but it was God's perfect timing. I believe even including all the delays to getting the peg replaced… Pastor would have called it "the season of the soul." I told Pastor the angels were rejoicing in heaven as he lay on the table.
Now a few general updates, which are praises to the LORD. Pastor Esposito's right hand and arm movement are more frequent. He shakes and nods his head more frequently. He has seemed to want to move his mouth to talk recently on several occasions. He tried a lot yesterday to do "mmmm" and "ahhhhh," but I only hear air; although, he is definitely trying. Hopefully with more "try" he can become stronger, and get enough air through the windpipe to make sound. I have him blow the razor each morning for the same purpose. For some time he has been watching "GEMIINI" a type of speech therapy I found online. His general responsiveness/alertness is growing little by little. His balance seems better when we sit him up. Today we barely held him after we sat him on the side of the bed and put the PBC 25 Year Anniversary video on for him to see. Praise God once again for our little miracles. Praise God for giving us baby steps. Praise God for growing us along the way…teaching us to trust Him more, to depend upon Him more. God is good.
Thank you for your prayer, love, encouragement, notes, e-mails. Thank you for allowing God to use you to encourage us.
May you have a very MERRY CHRISTMAS,
The Esposito Family
P.S. As I am sending this e-mail Pastor is in the chair waiting to go outside. I placed his hat on his lap. He is trying to lift the hat up and tilt his head down!
Thank you all who prayed for our physiatrist appointment. It went well, and Pastor Esposito was extremely responsive. I will type a more detailed update on the appointment very soon. For now, please pray for another appointment at 11:30 today. It is with a practitioner who uses a specific method that's been very successful to help the brain learn. I believe the way I came about finding her was from the Lord, and pray He will use her to help. I will give more details on that along with the detailed Physiatrist update. I am sorry to keep everyone unposted life has been extremely busy the past week including a long night in ER with one of my children, who is fine, and I have been spending extra time trying to fill in some for one of our church employees who has been very ill.
Pray for a miracle from the Lord on Whom we depend,
Mrs. Joe Esposito
We would like to thank everybody once again for praying for Pastor. I would like to give a brief update because many people have asked that we update more frequently. Monday of this past week, we were scheduled for a G.I. consult to have the feeding tube changed. However there was another glitch and rescheduling elsewhere is pending.
One morning as I arrived to the room, I noticed saline tubes packed in ice. I inquired the purpose. I was told that he had coughed up blood during the night, and that this is the way that they stop bleeding within the Esophagus or lungs. There was no apparent bleeding after that. Praise The Lord!
Another time I entered the room this week after stepping out to get some lunch, Pastor's feet were turned within his boot splints. The right foot which rarely moves was really turned. I am not sure what happened (maybe a small seizure or tremmor). We have no explanation. The bloodwork testing the seizure medication from last Friday's incident came back normal. Full labs will be drawn on Tuesday. Please pray much for Monday's appointment with the physiatrist. Please pray that there will be no glitches. Also, pray that he will be alert and responsive like he has been recently. (Often he is able to do something new, then unable to do it except on occasion.) Pray that we will receive some helpful direction. At the end of the day God is our Great Physician and we trust Him to do what's best. Thank you again from Pacific Baptist Church and the Esposito family.
Pastor's family would love to know if you're praying! Your name or e-mail will not be added to any ministry mailing list. This is not a fundraiser. This is simply to let the Espositos know you are standing with them in prayer.