Thursday, October 21, 2010

Don's Stroke

We have a medical emergency. If there’s a physician aboard, please come to the forward cabin.”

The drone of the Boeing 747’s engines invaded the hush following the announcement. Across the aisle a row ahead of me, a woman wearing a blue, plaid scarf popped to her feet. She scurried down the narrow aisle, and I sucked in a breath of air.

It’s Don! I just know it!

I’d been waiting for him to return to our seats. We were over the Pacific, four hours away from landing in Los Angeles, and we’d decided to use the restrooms before settling in for a short snooze. The flight was long—fourteen and a half hours from Melbourne, Australia (where we’d been visiting our daughter), to LA. Meals, movies, and a good book had killed off ten of the hours. We looked forward to a break in the airport before continuing our journey home.

A stewardess sped up the aisle. I grabbed her arm. “Is it a man in a red, long-sleeved shirt?”

Her eyes widened, as if I were psychic. “Yes.”

“Then it’s my husband.” Heart thumping, I followed her to the front of the cabin. Don was seated on a staff chair, the woman with the blue scarf hovering over him. A clear plastic oxygen mask covered his mouth and nose. His brow was shiny with sweat, his eyes opened so wide you could see the whites around his irises. I stood directly in front of him, but he didn’t recognize me.

“Your husband has had a stroke,” the woman said. She was one of several Aussie physicians aboard the flight to attend a convention in LA. How providential was that? Don’s care was immediate, faster than if he’d been home and taken to an emergency room.

Did the stroke begin in his seat? When he got up to go to the restroom, his left leg and arm were a bit numb. He finished up in the lavatory but couldn’t find his way out of the tiny cubicle. His head throbbed, he could barely see, and he didn’t know how to get back to his seat. He finally found the latch on the door and stumbled out. The blur of a passenger loomed in the aisle. Don tapped him on the arm and said, “Could you call a stewardess for me? I think I’m having a stroke.”

Ten years ago Don had had a stroke, and he was leery of its happening again. Because he knew the symptoms, he keyed into to what was happening aboard the flight to LA. Though the doctor checked him for a heart attack and other possible problems, she had Don’s guidance to focus on treating a stroke. Again, providence.

Don didn’t recognize me because he couldn’t see me. “It’s like someone’s dimmed the lights,” he said. “I can barely make out shapes.” By the time we deplaned he felt fine except for a headache and loss of vision, but the airlines required a doctor’s release before we could fly to Chicago and on to Indy. So, naively assuming a doctor at the nearest ER would sign him off, we sent our four, 50-pound pieces of luggage on to Indy. More providence. We ended up in an LA hospital for three days, and I shudder to think of my having to haul around and be responsible for all that baggage.

This past year I’ve worked on making Romans 8:28 a conscious mental and spiritual orientation in my life. “We know that all things work together for good to those whose love God.” This means no matter what happens in my life, God is looking out for me. No need for anxiety—everything is purposed by Him for my good. Over and over, Don and I saw that wonderful truth in action in our little adventure between Melbourne and Indy. I wish I had room to tell you of all the times things looked bad… and snowballed… into good.

So, what does this have to do with writing? Well, that the truth of Romans 8:28 applies to our lives as writers too. It’s been five years since Don and I started co-authoring our adventure/suspense trilogy. Enough years that we can look back and see that what looked like setbacks were actually “advances” for our good. We writers need to hang in there, trust God, wait on Him. Don’t mistake toe-stubbers for disasters. Shift to God’s perspective that He has a purpose for whatever happens to you. And there’s more than hope involved here. There’s good. Good from a good God who loves you.

Thank you, all of you who have upheld us in your prayers. The prognosis for Don is that he will be blind—“legally blind,” not dark-hole, utterly blind—for the rest of his life. We hope God will give him a better recovery than that, but if not, it’s okay. God is good. We look forward to discovering His purposes in it.

Steph Prichard            


  1. Steph and Don, I can't tell you how this story touched me. What a powerful illustration on God's Providence! We continue to pray for you and Don. Thanks so much for sharing this story.

  2. How true Romans 8:28 is. (But then, it's from the Bible, so how could it be false?) What comfort there is to know that whatever happens, God is in control. You're in my prayers.

  3. With God, All Things are Possible.

    Your family is in my prayers.

  4. Those overseas flights are so long when a loved one is suffering. My husband suffered a heart attack a few years ago on the way to NY from Germany.

    He is now recovered and just now able to think about another trip overseas. God bless you both as you go through this journey together.

  5. Sounds like a "stroke" of providence!

  6. Thanks, all of you, for your comments. And prayers. *big smile*

    Sharon ~ Hoo, it will be a long time before we travel by air again!

    Sarah ~ Hahaha, I'll steal that phrase from you!

    Crystal ~ Bless you! I saw what you did on fb, and I hope it encourages someone's heart. *hug* Just think--what happens today may be a piece of Providence for the future!

  7. May the Lord hold your hands, Steph and Don, as you continue this challenging journey together.

  8. I've been praying for Don, you and your family, Stephanie. I'm so thankful you shared this experience with us.

    A My Book Therapy friend (and 2010 Genesis finalist) suffered a brain aneurysm in London a couple of weeks ago, and we've been praying for her, too. She's had surgery and is doing as well as can be expected, but will not be allowed to return home for the foreseeable future. Still, the Lord's hand was in it every step of the way. He is so GOOD!!

    It's always so amazing to see how the Lord takes care of His own in the most unusual ways, and places, sometimes, too! I was very touched by your story. Thanks again! We'lll keep praying! Blessings to you.

  9. Thanks, Rachael and JoAnn. My heart goes out to your friend so far, far from home, JoAnn, and I'm praying for her. I read in Psalms as part of my morning devotions, and I'm always struck with how personal and tender and faithful God's care for us is.

  10. Saying a prayer for you both today, Steph. Our God indeed is good and mighty to save.