Latest Update

July 7 (4:18 PM)

Thank you once again for your prayer. I wanted to give a short update including some great blessings and prayer requests.

We have received approval for the brain injury rehab facility. We are very excited about this! It is costly and not covered by insurance, but the letter stated that we've received some funding for the services. I don't know yet how much of the funding is being provided. We begin August 1st. I'm a bit nervous while excited. It's outpatient, so I'd transport him in the medical van God provided through the graciousness of one of our deacons who sacrificed one of the vans from his medical transport business. They've scheduled him for 4 days per week for 4 hours a day. This may be above his ability, but they will work to fit the schedule to his needs over the first 8-week trial period.

Our family got brave and took my husband to a nearby park for Father's Day. He seemed to really enjoy being out with everyone. It went very well. He also got to ride in the van with a couple of the grandchildren. We took the respiratory equipment along, but didn't need to use it. (Thank the Lord! They were supposed to put me through training before allowing off-campus pass, and I hadn't had it yet. The park was so nearby I wasn't worried.) Thank the Lord! We never would have imagined being with him in that setting again–God's good! The road is so long, but we've come so far when we think about it.

I requested some speech therapy again, and it's beginning today. The therapist certainly noticed a difference in his speech from the past. She commented how very clear his speech is when he talked. She is going to work on strengthening, which is what I had hoped and prayed for. I am theorizing that it will also help with his capping and trying to eliminate the trach. She will see him in the standing frame on Tuesdays and Thursdays for an undetermined time. I really wanted some outside help, as I work with him daily in so many areas and I'm telling him what to do all day! I think another voice will be good. She worked with him on answering more quickly yesterday, and I saw a difference right away. We also discussed the device on which his eyes could type and communicate. She felt at this level he doesn't need it, and it's more profitable to work with his speech. Praise the Lord for bringing him to a place she feels that way.

Please pray for his ongoing allergy we can't figure out. He has swelling in the eyes and lips and hives. Also he's being treated for a lot of swelling right now in the feet and hands.

Thank you for your encouragement and prayer.

June 19 (9:00 AM)

Thank you once again for your continual prayer and encouragement. Folks tell me, "I am still praying" or "I pray every day for your husband and family." It sure means a lot to us.

When I think about an update, sometimes it seems the prayer requests are the same and the progress seems of no large significance to report. On the other hand, I realize every small step is really very significant; and not going backward is in a sense a step forward. Though the prayer requests are the same, we are progressing bit by bit in each. For that we thank the Lord.

We are still praying for the removal of the trach. We continue to cap daily in the morning, and as long as possible. His oxygen is good. Praise the Lord! Thank God he now rarely struggles when it's initially put on. He seems to have relearned breathing completely through the mouth. Yet he still can't fully clear his own throat or cough the mucus all the way up, so still needs some suctioning to prevent pneumonia. Patiently we keep capping as long as possible; and after suctioning is needed, we start over again! Pray specifically for ability to intentionally cough and clear and for physical strength for the muscles as well as "know how." The pulmonologist was positive and said Pastor Esposito's getting stronger, but l it could take months. It was good to hear positive!

I continue to feed Pastor daily–maybe six to eight little bitty bites. He's also been able to lift the spoon to his mouth if I put it in his hand. We mix eating with "voice lessons" as I have to see a good swallow and hear a clear, "aaah" with no gurgle for him to have the next bite. I requested exercises from the facility speech therapist to strengthen swallow and voice. We do, "eeee" held to the count of 3 and repeated, or done at a low tone and rising. Another is "ahh, ahhh, ahhh." He is doing VERY well with these, and the voice is getting stronger and stronger. When he's tired and can't take another bite, and there's a temptation to be discouraged – I often take a breath myself, and say, "Joe, do you realize that swallowing at all is a miracle? Amen!" And he says, "Amen."

As for talking, Pastor has capability but still lacks strength. He doesn't talk a lot throughout the day but can when needed. After I'd shaven him, he said, "I've got cream in my eye." Then a few minutes later, "There's something in my mouth." He says, "I need some water" (though he's not supposed to have water by mouth).

Here's a funny example showing Pastor Esposito's ability to think, speak, and show his sense of humor. I asked the activity department for worksheets used to test/strengthen the mind or memory. I wanted to use these to practice his voice. First, comparisons like what is longer a pencil or a yardstick? Which is faster, an airplane or a car? The Next page is categories like add a word in the same category. George, Tom, Henry… he said, "Bob." Spider, ant, wasp… he said, "butterfly." The next page is retention…. a set of words, then "what was the third word," or the word following another. Another is Time Orientation, "What month sometimes has 29 days", "A holiday in January," "If it's 2:00 and your friend says he'll be there in 3 hours, what time will it be?" The next is Spatial Orientation, like are you lying down or sitting, in a bed or on a chair, is a table nearby, are you wearing glasses? The last page is knowledge of one's self like "Your full name, birth place, phone number?" I had randomly chosen 3-4 per page, and he answered with about 98%. (Word retention took repetition.) Then, I asked him from the last page if he has a spouse, "yes"… your spouse's name..."Mary". Then, "How old is your spouse?" He grinned, and with his cute teasing expression he used in the past, he said, "REAL OLD!" I laughed and told him that if I'm real old he's really old-er… again he smiled.

I am still awaiting approval for the brain injury rehab, and praying for God to open all the doors. It's in the Lord's hands.

We continue to work on movement, and see baby steps there as well. We have tried new things like a PVC arch on which you move the rings side to side. He tracks with his eyes, states the color, and holds and releases the ring after pushing it to the other side. I help him, but he is definitely pushing and making effort. I think doing all this at once stretches him.

May 24th was our 30th wedding anniversary. I praise the Lord for giving us so many great years together, and for the blessings we've experienced. I asked him where he wants me to take him for our anniversary, and right away he said, "fishing." I asked how we could work out fishing in a wheel chair, and he told me, "the pier." I am working that out. Here is a letter I wrote for him.

Dear Joe,

On our 30th anniversary, I want to say thank you. Thank you for 30 wonderful years. Thank you for choosing me (the most unlikely candidate) above a multitude of girls at the college that would have loved to have been your wife (it seemed all the girls liked Joe Esposito). Thank you for helping me finish college while expecting and delivering our first child. Thank you for seeking God's will for us and following it – through the ups and the downs, the laughter and tears….and never quitting when things were hard (your own father being murdered a month before our wedding, over 20 x-gangsters living with us, our garage being blown up, the LB gang truce held at our church, stabbing in our apartment building, financial testing, the stories could fill a book ). Thank you for your vision and determination and consistency. Thank you for walking so closely to God, for being the best Christian I've ever known. Thank you for your unwavering stand for right, at church and home…for never changing what you believe. Thank you for making time for your family regularly though you were the busiest man I've ever known. Thank you for keeping our marriage priority– for 28 years of Monday night dates (including the USA Today), for all the walks-holding my hand. Thank you for your love for children, and desire to have a large quiver full - and for allowing me to mother 8 wonderful children, (10 had the Lord not wanted two of them in Heaven). Thank you for being the best Dad in the whole world, loving our children individually and making time for them, all while leading a large growing church, mission teams around the world, a Bible college, and a huge building program, and continually dreaming to do more. Thank you for your patience with me – oh how often I needed your patience….you have always been so organized and possessed an excellent spirit in every way, while you know those weren't natural for me. Thank you for helping us to grow together. Thank you for all the times we were able to be a shoulder for each other to cry on during the hard times of our lives….tough times in growing a church from the ground up, times when our hearts broke because folks we loved turned away from God, times when each of us lost loved ones – too many times in terrible and unexpected ways and times. Like the night I received the call of the second suicide in my family in one holiday season– you didn't say a word – just put your arm on my shoulder and let me cry….and I knew you cared. Thank you for your multi-generational vision, your dreams and plans for the future, and for acting upon those dreams to see them begin to come to pass (and for the benefits our family and church reap today). Thank you for making sure the fire in the hearts of our family never died – that we fed it and helped it grow – whether a missions video together, encouraging a reading night, etc. Thank you for letting Pacific Baptist Church be not only the church you started and pastored, but for making it our whole life, as we served together as an entire family- even on vacations where we all sat around dreaming of what God could do more through His church and planning to do our part. Thank you for instilling those dreams into the hearts of our children.

Thank you for the way you encourage me even now, putting up with all I make you do on a daily basis, for giving every bit of effort you can until you're exhausted and fall asleep. (You must think I am crazy sometimes! Especially when I take your hands and arms and make you song lead, tell you to do silly things like blowing and sticking out your tongue, etc.) Thank you for the little expressions probably only I see but which are clear to me, even if only the raise of an eyebrow, saying that you agree with me – that God is still good, and we'll still love and trust Him though we can't understand or see what lies ahead. For the times I talk out loud and "preach to you" exactly what I myself need to keep trusting and believing, and you give me a nod of agreement or expression that says, "that's right". I probably need that more than a lift of the leg or to hear the sound of your voice (though those have excited me so much).

I always said publically that I didn't know of a better marriage. It's still true. I really have been blessed and of course it's God's mercy and grace toward me, but thank you for being the best husband a lady could ever dream of.

I love you!
Mary

May 3 (6:42 AM)

Thank you so very much for your continued prayer! Please forgive me for waiting so long to update the site. There are a lot of blessings to share, and for which to praise the Lord. I will include prayer requests in each point.

• All paperwork has been turned in for the outpatient brain injury rehab. I received acknowledgement but not acceptance yet. Please pray for God to make going to this brain injury rehab possible.

• I can't remember if I mentioned hives and swelling, his hives went on for three months covering most of his body; and then the swelling of his lips and face began. The skin treatment nurse had tried many treatments to no avail. A doctor couldn't be found by the facility, so I found an allergy specialist up the road and made a cash payment appointment and pushed him there one drizzly day. Several good things came of this. Two medications were removed, and we began to decrease the tube feeding as my husband has gained a lot of weight. He began a daily very mild antihistamine for a three-month trial. Many labs were done. Auto immune diseases and the like were ruled out. Though no conclusions were found; Praise the Lord he's hive free! Pray that the hives stay away.

• For a few weeks, we stopped all juice and food as we experimented with the hives. We've resumed both. Please pray for his swallow muscles to get stronger, so he's not so tired by eating and is able to eat more in quantity and eventually more than puree.

• Capping is in full force hopefully moving toward the eventual goal of removing the trach. This is a really big step. Praise the Lord! For now, we are putting it on in the morning as long as possible. His oxygen level tends to be good. The thing that causes it to be removed for a break or him to be suctioned is that he's working so hard to breath or is too tired to properly process mucus. Again, pray for strength of the throat muscles and energy in general.

Pray for wisdom and direction, too. There are a lot of viewpoints on the pros and cons of eliminating the trach in these circumstances. Some RTs feel like, "Go for it – you won't know if you don't try." Others say, "You don't want to do this and end up in respiratory distress and be sent by 911 to redo the surgery." The speech therapist doesn't think it should come out (at least until way down the road) as he's eating and it's somewhat of a safeguard incase food goes into the lungs/airway. Some articles say the things that keep you from getting rid of the trach like lack of cough, not being able to swallow well, etc. just MAY be better once it's removed. But there's no guarantee it will. And considering the muscles have been 2 ½ years since normal use, we don't know what actual ability may or may not be there.

• The EMS training is complete. Now it's just up to me to do it. I planned to do it every Saturday, but I was out of town this past Saturday. Pray God will use this to help awaken Pastor's muscles/nerves.

I wanted to share a poem that was sent to me which has been an encouragement to me. It so clearly states so many blessings in the WAIT when God doesn't choose to answer prayer with a red sea miracle. There are so many truths in the poem, especially the one from Job which we learn to not only hear of God with the hearing of the ear but for our eye to see Who He really is.

IN HIS TIME – THE WAIT POEM

Desperately, helplessly, longingly, I cried; Quietly, patiently, lovingly, God replied. I pled and I wept for a clue to my fate . . . And the Master so gently said, "Wait."
"Wait? you say wait?" my indignant reply. "Lord, I need answers, I need to know why! Is your hand shortened? Or have you not heard? By faith I have asked, and I'm claiming your Word.
"My future and all to which I relate Hangs in the balance, and you tell me to wait? I'm needing a 'yes', a go­ahead sign, Or even a 'no' to which I can resign.
"You promised, dear Lord, that if we believe, We need but to ask, and we shall receive. And Lord I've been asking, and this is my cry: I'm weary of asking! I need a reply."
Then quietly, softly, I learned of my fate, As my Master replied again, "Wait." So I slumped in my chair, defeated and taut, And grumbled to God, "So, I'm waiting for what?"
He seemed then to kneel, and His eyes met with mine . . . and He tenderly said, "I could give you a sign. I could shake the heavens and darken the sun. I could raise the dead and cause mountains to run.
"I could give all you seek and pleased you would be. You'd have what you want, but you wouldn't know Me. You'd not know the depth of my love for each saint. You'd not know the power that I give to the faint.
"You'd not learn to see through clouds of despair; You'd not learn to trust just by knowing I'm there. You'd not know the joy of resting in Me When darkness and silence are all you can see.
"You'd never experience the fullness of love When the peace of My spirit descends like a dove. You would know that I give, and I save, for a start, But you'd not know the depth of the beat of My heart.
"The glow of my comfort late into the night, The faith that I give when you walk without sight. The depth that's beyond getting just what you ask From an infinite God who makes what you have last.
"You'd never know, should your pain quickly flee, What it means that My grace is sufficient for thee. Yes, your dearest dreams overnight could come true, But, oh, the loss, if you missed what I'm doing in you.
"So, be silent, my child, and in time you will see That the greatest of gifts is to truly know me. And though oft My answers seem terribly late, My most precious answer of all is still . . . Wait."

March 17 (6:43 PM)

God has been so good to continue to give Pastor progress. As in life, it's so easy to focus on the moment or be discouraged with the struggles and difficulties along the way and not look at the big picture of all that God has done and is doing. It really is miraculous how far Pastor has come. It's amazing how much he can move now, and that it's more and more as months go by. It's amazing how much more he communicates and tries to speak. His capabilities of remembering and thinking amaze me. (His short term memory is definitely improving since the last update—thank you for praying.) For all of this and so much more, we praise the LORD!

Last week, Pastor saw the physiatrist. Praise the Lord she was very excited and surprised at his progress. She kept using the word "promising." She also wrote an order for two things: to evaluate and work on capping (more officially) and to begin electronic stimulation on the muscles. The facility said they are not able to do this due to time limitations, and that only way it might be done is if I had the device and was trained to do it. "Coincidentally" one of our assistant pastor's wives had just given me one. I had NOT mentioned this to the physiatrist, so it seems to be from the Lord. Today, they did a basic evaluation and gave me general instructions. Next session we are supposed to try it. I had the thought this evening to call his neurologist just to be sure it's safe. Please pray that if this is God's will that He will use it to improve Pastor's movement.

This week we've had Karrina, the neuro-muscular therapist, come daily. She is the lady we've mentioned whom we pay to come as God provides. She too was very surprised at the progress. (She said had I not told her about the December setbacks, she never would have known since he'd progressed so much from when she'd last seen him.) Every time she's come in the past, we've seen specific improvement.

A few weeks ago I visited a nonprofit (though not free) outpatient brain injury rehab not too far away. I had toured it before, but wanted to ask two questions: Would they accept a patient with the limitations my husband has and whether they believed it would be profitable? I appreciated the gentleman who started it and has done this for so many years taking the time to sit and talk with me. He was very positive and said that he was certain my husband would improve if he attended. That was quite encouraging. So the next step would be to get a doctor's order that I could take my husband out weekly, which is being requested. For this to happen, I will also need to be trained in his respiratory care. Next, I need to send in an application. I have completed all of the very extensive application except his doctor's portion. I wasn't sure that it could be done or approved on this end, but it seems to be going well. Please pray that if God's will, He will make the way. I also ran the thoughts of moving facilities or going home by him. He said keep him where he is—good facilities are hard to find. On going home, he said, "He's not ready and you're not ready." He basically said to be patient. He gave me a lecture as well. "Do what you can, get help with what you can't do, and what you can't get help with let it fall by the wayside." I'll translate the latter to be leave it in God's hands. That was good for me because there is so much that I want to do for Pastor… more that realistically I can do. On the other hand, It's God who has brought us this far, He gets all the glory. We're only instruments, so we'll trust His guidance going forward as in the past.

A few "little blessings":

  • Pastor lifted his left leg almost all the way up yesterday in the chair. Then, lifted it several more times.
  • He has done much more speaking. Little things like, "Do you want to just sleep, listen to a sermon, or listen to music?" His response, "I'll take preaching." He whispers mostly and needs strength as just a little talking really tires him out; but the voice is there if he tries really hard. (One of the college students read my brother in law's book Peeking Through the 1040 Window. Then, he asked Pastor what his thoughts were so he could text Bro. Esposito. My husband first said, "He put the cookie on the bottom shelf." The college student couldn't quite get what he was saying so he called me and said, "It's something about a cookie." To me it was clear, but he wasn't familiar with the cliché. Then, he made a couple other statements.)
  • At the physiatrist, when she asked him to lift his right hand up in the air, he lifted it pretty far up. That surprised me, as he is still slowly working on getting the right side movement back. She asked him to lift the wrist, and open the hand which he also did. Both the right leg and arm are slowly progressing.
  • He's gotten pretty good with a toothbrush and a brush with help getting up there. Not in comparison to us but terrific for him!

Praise God for all—and thank you for your prayer!

February 14 (7:46 AM)

It's time for an update. I was thinking since it's just about Valentine's Day that I'd share related blessings. This May we will have been married for 30 years. That's a lot of Valentines. When I was 12 or 13, my pastor's wife told me that God already knew who I'd marry one day and was preparing us (and created me to be HIS helpmeet, though to most of the world and even many Christians that's a forgotten concept) for each other and that I should begin praying for him. At the time, I lived (as my husband would say it) next to the river and in the corn fields in Illinois. He lived far away in Long Beach, CA. God would take us to the same Bible college (though I was heading to another college before God redirected me), where we'd meet and marry. It's amazing to think that just as when I was a young girl and God knew and planned our lives together God knew also we'd be where we are today. I often try to speak to Pastor about what God's plan and purpose might be for the future. Of course we don't know, only God knows; and so we trust Him. I thank God for the privilege it's been to be Mrs. Joe Esposito.

Recently, I put on the speaking valve as I do each morning when I arrive. He always replies with "Good Morning" even before I put on the valve. But often I say we need to practice talking and I tell him to repeat vowel sounds or words or ask him questions, like what's your favorite food to which he replies, "lasagna" or your favorite restaurant which fluctuates between Sophy's (Thai) and Pho (Vietnamese). That particular day I said, "We need to talk." Then in a sort of silly way I said, "So what do you want to say to me?" And I just waited. He replied, "I love you." He made my day!

Pastor continues to eat little bits of pureed food at a time, which I feed him around lunch time every day. Yesterday it was mashed potatoes and pie. He chose the pie first, then the potatoes which must have been very salty to his sensitive taste buds because he whispered, "I need water."

We continue capping a little per day. He has good days and bad days. A staff member in the therapy section here asked me what the plan was with the capping trials. I said, "There's not really a plan…I think it's just me pushing and trying."

We are back off of therapy, but continue our previous plan of working on various areas. The RNA's assist twice per week with standing him up, and I bring the exercise bike for the arms and hands and we do rolling the ball, etc. while standing.

We were supposed to have an appointment with the physiatrist, and I wanted to speak to her about some different ideas and see what areas should be priority. However due to an insurance problem it was canceled. Though I was disappointed initially, I hope to find another soon, and pray it is God's leading to where he wants us to go. I am sure there is a purpose.

As far as strength I believe we've just about gotten back to where we were before the hospitalization. I was really excited last week when for the first time since December I had him pull up a bit in his chair with the PVC pipe, and he can still lean right and lean left when asked. At first when he stood in the standing frame he totally leaned forward onto the table as if he'd lost all upper trunk ability he had gained previously. Thank you for praying for strength and energy, and praise the Lord for renewing strength little by little. Someone sent me a quote that said something to the effect that much more of our Christian life is on the level of walking without fainting than mounting up with eagle's wings.

Here are a few specific prayer requests:

  • Pastor's short term memory. He has an awesome memory of the past, people, events, places. He has very good reasoning skills with math facts, quiz questions, etc. His deficit seems to be shorter term memory. I read it's often the last thing to return.
  • Capping and safe removal of the trach
  • Eating/swallowing to improve
  • Strength and energy
  • Most of all pray for God's will and glory in every way.

Thank you for praying. This morning my brother in law sent a picture from a Bible of a junior high girl in Cambodia. It's the 4th of July picture of my husband and me in the front inside cover of her Bible with the words written in Cambodian "Please get better Pastor". I wept. Thank you all so much for praying! God does hear, and God is working His will.

Updates
Pastor Esposito and Family

Left: Pastor Esposito pictured with his wife Mary and 8 children; Joseph (w/ wife Jennifer), Timothy, Sarah, Susanna, Daniel, Joanna, Benjamin, and Nathaniel

Right: Pastor Joe Esposito and his wife, Mary

I'm Praying

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.