Monday, December 19, 2011 a deadly winter storm pounded the Midwest with hazardous conditions. In the midst of it, a
family living in the western Kansas town of
witnessed its own deadly storm. But the God who brought the Savior into the
world to make a Way for mankind, also smoothed the way for this family that
Chad, 44 years young, had been
experiencing chest pain, weakness, and shortness of breath for a couple of
weeks. He went to see the doctor and they ran an EKG and stress test. The EKG
came back fine and the stress test was inconclusive. I reflect back to the
beginning of December and several people commented that Chad looked gray
and stressed. When I look back at pictures I see that he was gray. On that
Monday afternoon of the 19th, we finished up with Christmas shopping together in
a community 40 miles away. Chad began feeling extremely weak and
suffering from chest pains. The predicted snow arrived with a
two and a half hours to drive home, Chad just wanted to lie down. But
once he did, his chest pain increased. Chad was rolling on the bed covering
his face with a pillow, and I could hear him bawling. I asked him if we needed
to go to the hospital and he rolled off the bed to his knees and agreed to go. I
frantically coordinated the family – the two oldest, Brinlee and Maris, were to
call ahead to the hospital and stay at the house with Gui, the youngest. Cooper,
the third child and an 8th grader, was to ride with me and his dad to
into the cold pickup truck and I put it in four-wheel drive. We live in the
country and had eleven miles to go in white-out conditions. Without thinking and
not even knowing why, I explained to Cooper how to do chest compressions and
then found myself on the phone with a nurse asking if I would know when to start
chest compressions. She said if Chad went unconscious to start them.
I hung up and wondered why I had done that? The trip to town seemed quick; I
don’t know if the roads were bad and I don’t even remember worrying about
I pulled up
to the doors of the ER and Chad walked in. They began the tests
and scans immediately. Within minutes Chad said he didn’t feel good and he
thought he might get sick. My heart sank as I saw my husband’s eyes roll deep
into his head and he began to jerk as if he was having a seizure. My knees went
weak, and I was quickly helped out to the hallway. I saw the fear in Cooper’s
face as he stood in the doorway. I sunk to the floor and desperately prayed, “Be
his heart beat Jesus, be his heart beat, give them wisdom, Jesus help us.” In
the thick of my prayer, I could hear counting, a machine warning “stand clear,”
and the voice of the doctor saying “trach him.”
opened and they told me to come in. With a hand on my shoulder the doctor said
“We are going to have to get him to a bigger hospital as soon as possible.” The
medical professionals worked quickly and diligently together to get the
ambulance arranged. Calls were also being made to decide where to send
Chad due to the blizzard that raged
outside. In such a stressful, time sensitive, life and death situation, I was so
thankful I didn’t have wonder or worry about Chad’s
relationship with Jesus Christ. I remember telling him I was at peace knowing if
he died he would be in heaven, but I wasn’t ready for him to go. I needed him as
did our four children.
the decision to send Chad to Hays that night. In normal
conditions, it was a two- hour drive, but outside the blizzard intensified.
Everyone knew the seriousness of the decision. The cardiologist from Hays was on
the line with the hospital and instructions were being relayed to administer a
clot buster to give Chad some hope of getting to Hays
where they could do a catheterization.
TEAM was amazing. I sat in amazement at each person who saw Chad through his
heart attack and kept control and stayed attentive even through the stress. It
wasn’t just their job. We knew those standing around Chad’s bed; they
were friends, on committees with us, our electrician. They go to church with us
or have known us since we were little. Being in a small town and knowing most
everyone was so reassuring.
Chad’s pain level rose quickly. And
once again, I was in the hall. I quickly went around the corner and gathered my
kids and Chad’s family who had all arrived. We
prayed with great urgency. Later, we learned that Chad had gone
into cardiac arrest. The doctor insisted she had to get him to Hays as soon as
possible. The EMT’s, four of them, were waiting at the hospital ready to go. The
physician’s assistant and nurse wouldn’t let the ambulance leave without them.
The doctor said she would be on the phone with the PA until she knew they were
in Hays. The respiratory therapist was there and ready to load up. We were told
that KDOT (Kansas Department of Transportation) had been
contacted and would plow a path to Hays. The ambulance would follow the snow
plow and all of us would follow the ambulance. It was 12:30 a.m. on December 20.
The snow strengthened its fury.
driving could only follow the tail lights of the snow plow and others in front.
Before we were 15 miles out of town, the ambulance stopped, but the KDOT truck
plowed on through. Panic and fear once again paralyzed me. No, no, no, God
please no! I feared the ambulance stopped to turn around because
Chad’s heart had stopped. They
finally started again and one of the EMTs called to reassure me – they had to
“pop” the ice off the windshield wipers and would have to stop periodically to
entourage reached the first town, Dighton, in one hour. Twenty-four miles in one
hour. The first KDOT truck pulled over, and out stepped Burke, one of the
“heroes” that night and a young father of three. He knew us well. He said he
would be praying and we were on our way.
KDOT truck led us the next thirty miles in a little over an hour. When we
pulled into Ness
City, another “hero”
driving a KDOT truck pulled over and let the next driver take
sister, Nancy, is a good friend of Dr. Hineman who was back at the hospital
keeping in touch with the ambulance. Nancy
received a text telling us Chad was resting well. That text was
like a little post card from heaven of peace and hope that we all
There is a
hill just outside of Ness
City with three little words written on
it with rocks forming the letters – “Christ Pilot Me.” The
words became a prayer to Almighty God. That night the words were blanketed with
snow, yet passing it thousands of times before, we all knew what it
was the view hampered by the blowing snow, but ice continually froze into a
thick sheet on the windows. As I tried to look at the situation at hand and see
what God wanted me to learn, I was reminded of a prayer I pray continually for
my family. God, keep our feet on the straight and narrow path that leads to you.
The path that leads others to you and brings YOU glory. When I pray that prayer,
I visualize seeing that path and looking down as I put one foot in front of the
other. Just like this trip, I need to keep my eyes on the Light, not on the
path. The Light is what will keep my feet on the path; it isn’t about me keeping
my feet on the path.
the next town around 4:00 am. The wind and blinding snow continued. The fourth
KDOT driver, another “hero,” was waiting and ready.
swirled horizontally around us, filled the ditches and completely covered the
road. We were thankful for the huge blade that made a way for all to follow.
Then suddenly, more than 15 miles from Hays, the KDOT truck slipped off the road
and became stuck. The ambulance full of “heroes” quickly made a decision to pull
around the truck and forge on!
the glow of the Hays city lights welcomed us. The normal, less than two-hour
trip to Hays took five hours that night. The ambulance pulled into the ER garage
and the snow and ice from the back doors had to be kicked before they budged.
The heart cath team was waiting at the end of the hall. A touch of
Chad’s face and a quick kiss had
never moved me like it did at that moment. Off he went and he was in the hands
of another group of heroes. Someone led me to the waiting room where I met up
with the rest of our family.
ambulance crew from Scott City came down to give hugs and words of
encouragement. The return trip home took them another four and a half
in the waiting room rang and I asked Chad’s father to answer it.
Chad was in recovery. Big sighs of
relief were heard around the room. When I walked into recovery, I saw
Chad sitting up in a wheelchair
drinking a cup of water. Wow! My feelings of awe and pure delight were hard to
put into words. Praise, smiles, laughing, relief, amazement,
joined our jubilant group to explain that Chad’s heart was 99% blocked and said when he was
City it had been 100%
blocked. The clot buster worked to let a little blood through to give them time
to put a stent in place. We learned that Chad’s heart
attack was massive – the classic “widow maker.”
days before on Sunday night, I had prepared an event called “Back to Bethlehem.” Everyone who
attended enjoyed a beautiful, crisp and clear night as they rode in a horse
drawn wagon, ate a meal, and listened as the living nativity told their side of
the Christmas story. As each of the performers ended their narrative, they
closed with, “I too must travel on Christmas to draw near to Jesus.” It was my
heart’s desire that people ponder and reflect on their own relationship with
Jesus and what it looked like to travel on Christmas in order to draw near to
Jesus. Forty eight hours later, I was overwhelmed with the journey we had just
traveled before Christmas and yes, we did draw near to Jesus. I prepared the
evening with God’s guiding hand for others to be inspired. I didn’t realize
when God gave me this idea six years ago, it would touch my heart so
Chad and Suzanne
Griffith farm and ranch in Scott County. Suzanne wants to give a thanks and credit to Mary K. Huck for editing her blog.