Our family would like to thank you once again for your many prayers for Pastor Esposito. Also, I didn't want to let a day go by without sharing and praising the Lord for this - God has given my husband back his smile. Over the past week or so we've seen more grins when someone has said something funny or reminisced about the past. Yesterday, his former pastor from his early days, Jim Black, was in California for the 40th anniversary of the church which he was pastor (my husband's home church before attending Bible college). Pastor Black and his wife came by to see my husband. As he spoke, my husband was extra responsive and smiling at his humor in a way he hadn't before. Then this morning I was doing a leg stretch for my husband where you lift it straight up toward the ceiling, and I was tired and put it down and started laughing and told him, "maybe you could be an acrobat in a circus when this is all over." He had the biggest smile. I told him I was so happy God had given his smile back! Shortly after, his brothers came in and were being really funny. They joked about who's oldest and teased the activities coordinator who'd come in to drop off something. Pastor Esposito was much more than smiling - I'd say he was laughing each time something was funny. I stepped out for a few minutes, and on the way I told the two nurses outside the room, "My husband has his smile back." They went in to see. I told the receptionist, Marilyn, who had come for our special day at church a couple weeks ago that I wanted to share a blessing with her... and told her the same. She began to cry. She said, I know he's going to get better. After this, I left for a meeting back at church, and my brother-in-law Jimmy stayed. He said this was "the buzz of the hospital" and that the nurse practitioner came in to see, and that Pastor Esposito was very responsive and following commands. She said, "I won't doubt you guys' faith any more."
Just to help make sense for people who don't understand the state he's in (neither do I to tell the truth). The things he is able to do are very slow and takes what seems a great amount of effort. He doesn't seem quite as "in and out" as before. He still sleeps a lot, and when he opens his eyes, he more often seems aware, though often times he still has a stare without response. I often wonder if he's just used all the energy he could muster and can't or he's tired from trying.
I also want to praise the Lord and thank you again for praying for our special day at PBC and the folks we were able to talk with at the nursing center. As I mentioned, the receptionist came. She was the only one on that day from there, though we had a multitude of visitors that day at church. This past week I called a patient who had gone home, but had promised to come. My son and I picked him up, and he came Sunday. It was also was neat that a Muslim lady from India I've made friendship with came and found me this week and asked me to bring her a Bible. She said that her son had told her that the stories are the same, and that both talk of Jesus. She also said maybe we can talk and compare and learn what the other believes... she said, "even though I won't convert you, and you won't convert me." Some folks who used to attend PBC are ministering to Muslims, and I was able to get a Gospel of John from them in Arabic with comments and a tract. I also brought her a regular Bible. We haven't gotten to talk since. Another patient called me as I passed him in the hallway, and asked me if he could get another of those brochures since his got thrown away.
God has been so good. He knows just when I need to see His hand in a little more tangible way, and always is sure to show Himself strong.
Thank you again for praying. Please pray for the physiatrist appointment December 8th and for continued healing; and most of all for a miracle. (I say that hesitantly, because I know all God has done and however far we've come is ALL a miracle!)
A lot has happened since the last update. Praise the Lord Pastor Esposito was able to have two weeks of therapy before it was withdrawn for insurance reasons. We were able to be trained in some new ways to work with him, and for that we are thankful. We had hoped that if therapy withdrew we could do all of the range of motion exercises and splinting and utilize the RNA's time to help sit him up daily. At the end of the time, that is exactly what was recommended. And we were told it is unusual to allow this, yet God gave me the desire of my heart for my husband.
We saw the neurologist on Wednesday. We talked about the anti-seizure medication which I hoped to reduce again, more gradually. The doctor said he is taking a moderate amount and that he didn't believe that it would make much difference in responsiveness level. He also said he recommends it two years out from brain injury. So we are choosing to leave that alone.
The neurologist did recommend a medication that he said is a brain stimulant that the other doctors on his team tend to use. He believed it good to try for two weeks to a month. So that began on Thursday. He also approved the natural supplement I had been requesting approval for for a long while now. Then the staff at the nursing center said they are unable to administer it due to a lack of expiration date (inspection guidelines). Please pray that God will use the new medication as it is His will and allow the other if it is His will.
Pastor Esposito tried to move his mouth slightly in response to a question by the RNA yesterday. Very slight again, but a try. He has done well at sitting up, and it seems that if we can give him enough help and time, he could regain the strength to do so without help.
Tomorrow we will have a procedure done to replace the peg to the stomach which has popped twice. Please pray for that procedure. Just a few more weeks and we will finally see the physiatrist. Please pray that we receive some new direction from that appointment.
Thank you so much for your prayer. As we have said many times, it means the world to us. Please keep praying for a miracle.
I wanted to take a moment to share with those who are praying for Pastor Esposito a few blessings, and of course to give God the praise for them. After posting last week that we were told there was no way to get therapy approved, the head of the therapy department came and told me that it was approved for up to ten days. He also told me that unless something extraordinary happens like his learning to brush his own teeth, it wouldn't be continued after that. Then, we will praise the Lord for the ten days! Monday they had him sitting on the edge of the bed practicing picking up his head and leaning on his elbows on either side, and holding onto a chair in front of him and they were trying to get him to pull himself. Tuesday, he was taken to the therapy room for the first time, and they stood him up for the first time in a little more than a year. It was really neat to see him in a standing position. A table keeps his knees from buckling or sliding, but he holds his own weight. He did pretty well at holding his head though he avoids turning to the right (maybe due to the surgeries and shunt on that side?) Today was more sitting on the edge of the bed, leaning, and some new exercises to increase mobility. I am learning new techniques that we can continue to use going forward. Please pray that he will get the most possible from these couple of weeks. I was asked by one of the therapists, "What is your expectation?" How do I answer that question? I was silent at first. Inside I wanted to say if you mean what do I want you to accomplish, "I expect you to get him walking and talking, and help him to be who he was." Then she said, "some families want the patient to be able to shift from a bed to a chair, or make it to the restroom, or to just stand." Just before that conversation, she had told me that because he didn't follow her directions very well, only mine, she wasn't sure she'd go on more than a couple of days (this was occupational therapy – not physical therapy that was doing sitting and standing). I told her that considering he has been lying in a bed for an entire year the fact that they can feel him trying to participate in sitting up and moving some and trying to turn from side to side, etc. is to me very big. I asked her did she not think that if they could work with him and help strengthen him maybe he could do much more. Then she told me she hadn't thought it was a whole year, and that okay, she'd keep on working with him. On a positive note, she did say that he was doing much more than when she last worked with him.
A few more "little" big things. Two of our assistant pastors and one of our members came today and were reminiscing about some funny stories from the past, and you could tell by the expression and attempt to smile that Pastor Esposito was enjoying the fellowship. I appreciate that our pastoral staff have faithfully come to see Pastor Esposito weekly since the start. I believe he knows and appreciates it, and it means a lot to our family as well. Today my son and daughter-in-law placed the baby in my husband's arm, and he picked up his other arm and placed it on the baby as if to hold on to him and gently feel his hand. Another "little" encouraging time was when I was showing my husband a card and telling him about the lady who had sent it who has really gone out of her way to encourage me—a lady I don't know from Louisiana—and another card from a lady in our church. I asked him if he remembered the lady from our church, and he gave me an obvious nod and a lift of the eyebrow. God is so good to continue to give us hope and encouragement through His Word, through little blessings, through wonderful people like those of you reading this update and praying.
Last night I couldn't sleep, and God brought to my mind the verse, "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee." And recently I have though much of the verse, "I had fainted unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD." How true. If we get to dwelling on our problems and begin to have a pity party, we will soon faint, but if we will believe enough to look at God's goodness and blessings He sustains us.
Specific Prayer Requests:
Thank you once again for keeping up with our updates and for praying diligently for Pastor Esposito. Yesterday, we went to see the neurosurgeon once again. It was a blessing because though we were told he was out of the contracted group and that I'd have to pay $150 for the visit, by the end of the visit it was approved. I wasn't sure exactly what the purpose was in going. We had gone in June at the three month mark after placing the shunt and this appointment was set at that time. That was the appointment at which Pastor Esposito responded very well, and Dr. Szper had said we needed a physiatrist to try to help "bring him out". We are still waiting for that appointment (scheduled for December) and the neurologist (scheduled for November). We hadn't had any additional CT scans. On the way, I prayed that somehow, some way our visit would bring Dr. Szper closer to salvation through the visit. I don't know how the Holy Spirit worked, but I pray my prayer was answered somehow through our conversation. Dr Szper said my husband had progressed much more than he'd expected from the start, and he asked me questions about my husband's responsiveness. And as usual, once again he reminded me of the medical truth that we don't know how much further progress we will see. He said, "It's stimulation." We talked about therapy coming in and being hopeful and positive, but how (I don't think I've posted this yet.) they have basically said he can't qualify for any therapy (maybe in about 12 years when he is 65). From a medical perspective, Dr. Szper was basically telling me—it's largely about what we can do to try to stimulate and "wake him up" and that still there are no guarantees to what extent his brain will wake up. So within two days we were told from one doctor that it mostly depends upon the therapies, and from the head therapist that he can't qualify for any! Dr. Szper agreed that just maybe the physiatrist will be able to give some additional help and hope. In the mean time we will continue to pray and trust the Lord while we do what we can do.
Please help us to pray for Dr. Szper's salvation. I plan this week to invite him to a special day we are having at our church on November 2nd. Please also pray for a man named Joseph who is being released from the rehab side tomorrow and who promised that he and his daughter will be at our special day. I am also trying to get a Jewish lady named Sarah whose husband is also in the facility to come. She is contemplating coming. She often talks with me and cries. She has no one, her only daughter lives in Israel. There is also a gentleman named Ed who lives in the next door apartment to the nursing center that is seriously thinking of coming as well. He said he grew up in a Baptist home, but went away from church when he left home. He seems like he very well may come. This gentleman sees me walking my husband in the wheel chair as he is often out in the parking lot with his truck. He had told me of losing his wife after she'd been in a facility like this and then had gone home. The front receptionist, Marilyn has promised to come. She lives in Long Beach. There are several others I or my family have invited. Please pray with us. My daughter Susanna and I were driving and talking last night and she spoke about the fact that our lives should be all about winning others to the Lord, and she was telling me how God has been impressing on her that if our focus is on this end the other things that come our way in life won't matter so much. And I added that what does come our way should be a tool toward the end of reaching others for Him, and so I have prayed since the first night that because of our trial, many would come to HIM. Our present goal is to invite all the staff who have cared for my husband, and all of the folks we've gotten to know there (family members of patients) for our special day November 2nd.
Here are a few more updates: The worry of an obstruction in the digestive system seems to have been false. Pastor's blood sugar has been good since the change in the formula that they have fed him. One prayer seems to have been answered—tomorrow my husband will be fitted for his own chair. This has been going around for many months. And I was told that I would have to pay several thousand dollars and now I most likely will not have to pay anything. Our church family took up an offering for that part of the chair, and we hope to purchase a program/device that uses eye tracking to help a person whose mind is there but can't speak to communicate. I hope to get some input on this from the physiatrist as well.
Please continue to pray for wisdom in making right decisions, I have many different thoughts on this or that, or making specific changes and often go back and forth in my thoughts. But I desire God's clear leading in every way (medications, treatments, facilities, etc.) I also appreciate that many people give various ideas and opinions, and I don't want to miss anything God sends along through others, while neither do I want to take any steps He doesn't want me to take. Then, I remember and acknowledge that God alone is the Great Physician, and He alone able to heal Pastor Esposito. I also remember that He wants me to do my part, and I think of Ecclesiastes 11:6, a verse he showed me which gave me peace during one important decision I had to make earlier. This verse reminds me, who knows what the Lord might use! (Now you see why I need prayer for God's direction!)
ABOVE ALL ELSE, Please continue to pray for a miracle that all may "know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the LORD hath done this…"
Our family would like to give our sincerest thanks to our wonderful church family and so many people across the country and around the world who have continued to pray for Pastor Esposito for a full year today. I may have mentioned in a previous update, but some of my husband and my favorite verses through the years have been Ephesians 3:20-21, "Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think… Unto him be glory…" Though it has been a very difficult year and our hearts have broken, God has shown Himself faithful to do so much more than we could have thought. Here is what I wrote in a card I read to my husband today:
On this 1st anniversary of your AVM rupture, I wanted to remind you I love you, not only just as much but more than ever. I also want to take this day to praise and thank God together for His great goodness during our 28 years of marriage together. I realize very well the Lord could have taken you home a year ago today. It was a miracle you made it to the hospital, a miracle you made it through surgery the first night, and now a thousand plus miracles later, God has allowed us to have you still. Though we don't know exactly what the future holds, I know God has a plan and purpose for you, for us, for our family, and for Pacific Baptist Church. We'll keep trusting, believing, hoping, waiting, and praying until the day He chooses to take us home. I'll be by your side that's the purpose for which I was created (just like Eve).
I brought you two balloons…one "get well" to remind you I'm praying for you day and night…and a red heart to remind King Joseph that his Queen Mary loves him a LOT! And the other side to praise God Who loves us so (It says, "truly God is Good").
I thought of listing all the miracles in order to give God the glory, but it would be a long page! Here's what I would have put only for the miracles of his eyes as little by little God has given us miracles:
And I can go on and tell the "little miracles" in so many areas. His body being able to maintain temperature on its own, breathing on his own, a first yawn or sneeze, response to sound, expression, first movement in the face, a toe and then a foot, then a leg moving, a finger, then hand, then arm…and on and on I could go.
And we are thankful for the many lessons learned and the way God has molded us. I asked my children this evening as we went out to eat together to write down for me just one way that God has worked in their lives this past year. What precious lessons as precious gold from the furnace. For these we give thanks and for a Heavenly Father that loves us enough to take us where we'd never have chosen to go that we might be able to say with Job, "I have heard of thee with the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth Thee."
Thank you once again, and PLEASE CONTINUE TO PRAY FOR A MIRACLE.
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.