Yes, though I go through the valley of deep shade, I will have no fear of evil; for you are with me(Psalms 23:4)
It has been two months since I last held Joe Joe in my arms.
Joe started having high fever in the morning of January 1st.
At first, his pediatrician thought it was just a simple case
flu. However, when his condition didn't improve after a week, I
started to worry. The pediatrician told me to take Joe Joe to Whittier's
Never in my wildest dream could I imagine
what was about to transpire over the next few weeks.
to turn downhill on Joe Joe's second hospital day. The doctors
at Whittier's hospital found that his platelet has
been dropping rapidly. They immediately decided to transfer Joe
Joe to the best pediatric hospital in the area: CHOC (Children's
Hospital of Orange County).
At CHOC, they placed Joe Joe in the
PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit). Chest X-ray done at the same
night (Jan 9th) showed
that his entire right lung was infected and surrounded by pus.
Jan 10th, the doctors took Joe Joe to surgery, so they can try
to drain some pus out of his lung.
On Jan 11th, the same condition
started to affect his right lung.
On Jan 12th, another surgery
was done on the right lung, again draining out some more pus.
that afternoon, Joe Joe had two chest tubes coming out from each
side of his lungs, draining out excessive fluids and pus.
the next week, Joe Joe was placed on many different kinds of medications,
antibiotics, IV nutrition, as well as a ventilator
that helped him breathe. However, Not only was Joe Joe not making
any significant recovery, he seemed to be getting worse.
16th, the doctors changed Joe Joe's ventilator to an oscillator,
a more advanced form of mechanical ventilation, hoping that it
would help his lungs.
On the contrary, things were deteriorating
On Jan 18th, after numerous discussions and meetings, the
doctors came to us. They thought that Joe Joe's condition was very
and his best chance was to use a procedure called ¡§ECMO¡¨ (Extracorporeal
Membrane Oxygenation). Their rationale was that, since Joe Joe's
lung had been severely injured, ECMO is the only way to allow his
lungs to fully rest and recover. (ECMO basically acts as an artificial
lung, so it does all the work while Joe Joe's lungs rest.) However,
there is a catch to ECMO: it can cause serious side effects. Patients
on ECMO need to have their blood thinned, so that there won't be
blood clot formation. In order to thin the blood, the doctors have
to use a strong blood thinner. The side effect of blood thinner,
obviously, is bleeding.
We didn't have much choice. Without ECMO,
the doctors estimated that Joe Joe's chance of survival was about
5%. With ECMO, there's
a 50% chance of his lung making a recovery. It didn't take long
for me and my husband to sign the consent for ECMO.
It was close
to midnight when the decision was made, and we didn't have time to
shed tears. I called some close friend from church,
as well as our pastor's wife. Visitors other than parents were
not supposed to enter the hospital after 8 PM, but due to the urgency
of the situation, the guards made exceptions for us. So we gathered
in the small room outside of the PICU, and we started praying fervently.
Our hearts were fearful and heavy burdened, but we cried out to
At 1 AM, the surgeons were ready. They gave me five minutes
to say another prayer for Joe Joe before surgery started. I stood
next to Joe Joe, and I laid my hand on him.
I told him, ¡§Joe Joe,
be brave. Mommy will be outside waiting for you.¡¨
After four hours,
the surgery was finally done. When I saw him, a large catheter
was connecting his neck vein to the ¡§artificial
lung¡¨ machine. On his bed, Joe Joe seemed so small and peaceful,
unaware of the countless bags of medications dripping into his
body through countless catheters and lines.
At that moment, my
heart cried to the Lord, ¡§God! I still have you!¡¨
Early in the morning, outside of the hospital, I saw
our pastor in the distance. I'll never forget the looks in his
were filled with such love and compassion. When he saw my tears,
he told me steadily, ¡§This child is in God's hand!¡¨
¡§Your eyes saw
my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in
your book before one of them came to be.¡¨ Psalm
Yes, Lord. I always knew. I had to trust you in faith.
night of anguish and tears, we finally went home to take a nap.
Around noon time, we were awakened by the hospital's nurse.
Over the phone, she told us what we've dreaded: a blood clot has
formed. The blood clot had formed in the catheter that provides
blood from ECMO machine to Joe Joe's carotid artery. The only way
to save Joe Joe was to do another emergency surgery, changing the
catheter from carotid artery to his leg artery. However, since
Joe Joe is on blood thinner, massive bleeding can probably occur
during this surgery. Joe Joe is caught between a rock and a hard
place. They wanted us to go back, and sign the consent form for
the surgery as soon as we know the risk involved.
After my husband
hung up the phone, he held my hands, and we both knelt down. We
knelt before the Lord, and we cried to the Lord,
asking Him to have mercy and grace on our child. After I prayed
and prayed, my eyes and my heart were filled with tears. Tears
of sadness, tears of thanksgiving.
On our way to the hospital,
I started calling all the faithful brothers and sisters from church
again. As they called their friends
to start urgent prayers of intercession, I turned my Bible to Psalm
23, and I read out loud:
He makes Joe Joe lie down in green pastures,
He leads Joe Joe beside quiet waters, He restores Joe Joe's soul.
He guides Joe
Joe in paths of righteousness for His name's sake.¡¨ Psalm 23:2-3
In the afternoon, the
hospital called us again. Despite aggressive blood transfusion,
and lifting his bed as high as they could, Joe
Joe's blood pressure continued to drop. His doctors decided to
do another emergent surgery; they placed a catheter that connected
Joe Joe's femoral vein to the ECMO machine, which, along with the
blood from his neck vein, would provide fresh blood into the neck
That night, the weekly prayer meeting was held in the prayer
room of the hospital instead of church. Brother Marc shared with
a message about faith. Faith indeed! We all needed to place a lot
more faith into our Lord's Mighty Hand! He is God Almighty, and
there would be no battle that He can't win. That night, everyone
was praying fervently for Joe Joe. Though we were tearful, those
were not tears of sorrow. Though we were suffering with Joe Joe,
we were rejoicing with God.
Some brothers and sisters, along with
our young adults, started a week long fasting relay, with each
person fasting for 24 hours.
Through fasting and praying, we wished that God would reveal His
will for Joe Joe to us. We prayed that He would completely restore
Joe Joe's health.
Today, Joe Joe's left chest appeared swollen. After a chest
X-ray, the doctors found that there were air pockets and fluids
in Joe Joe's left lung. The doctors had to perform another surgery
to insert a chest tube. This was Joe Joe's 6th surgery! We had
no choice but to keep praying. Two hours later, a repeat chest
x-ray showed that the air pockets and fluids have been drained
from his lung. Joe Joe seemed to be stable at the moment.
though we used the word ¡§stable¡¨ to describe Joe Joe's condition
at the time, all it meant was that his condition wasn't getting
worse. For about a week, Joe Joe's condition stayed the same. During
this week, whenever me and my husband arrived at Joe Joe's bedside,
be it day or night, there would be different brothers and sisters
from the church already there, laying their hands on Joe Joe's
bed, and praying. With tears in their eyes, they kept praying and
praying, for God's healing. How blessed were we, to have this group
of brothers and sisters, who took us in like their own family,
and loved Joe Joe like their own son. There were even times when
I saw children and teenagers from our youth group at Joe Joe's
bedside, crying and praying for him. I said to my husband, Joe
Joe's suffering was not in vain. And I said to God, we know how
to love each other, because you loved us first.
Because of ECMO,
Joe Joe's kidney function was severely impaired, and he couldn't
urinate well. Fluids started to accumulate in his
body, and his entire body was very swollen. His face became twice
the size as before, and we could barely see his eyes.
and sisters continue to encourage us; they often place their hands
on my shoulder, and told me, ¡§We will not stop praying
until God heals him¡¨.
In the afternoon, Joe Joe's condition seemed to improve; the
doctors were able to lower the settings on the ventilators and
This afternoon, accompanied by a two close friends from church,
we had a parent's conference with the PICU doctors. The doctors
were very straightforward; they said that until yesterday, they
frankly didn't believe that Joe Joe was going to survive. They
thought his lungs were just too severely damaged. Miraculously,
his condition started to improve yesterday! They were very encouraged.
The doctors explained again that the chance of success with ECMO
is only 50%; they have done their part to provide an environment
for Joe Joe's lungs to recover; the rest of the 50% is up to God.
The attending doctor hoped that by next week, we can stop ECMO,
since Joe Joe has been on it for more than 2 weeks.
Joe Joe's left chest suddenly started to swell up. Chest x-ray
showed possible blood clots, which may need surgery to take out.
However, with Joe Joe still on ECMO, any surgery can result in
massive bleeding, so the doctors decided to wait a little longer
to see how Joe Joe would do overnight.
Today, the X-ray showed that the left chest clot was encroaching
on the left lung, so the doctors decided to proceed with the surgery.
At the same time, Joe Joe's right lung has signs of pneumothorax
(which means there was a small hole on the lung), thus it was affecting
the ventilators. They said they could inject some medicine into
the right chest to seal the hole, but the medicine may or may not
Dear Lord! You created Joe Joe's lungs, so please heal them
To prepare for the surgery on Joe Joe's left chest (to remove the
blood clots), the doctors first gave Joe Joe some platelet transfusions,
and then they prepared enough units of blood on standby in case
they needed to use it during surgery.
That same day, our pastor
was going back to Taiwan for a week of Bible class teaching. He
brought Joe Joe's pictures with him,
inviting more people back in Taiwan to join our intercession for
Dear Lord, You do things with your own timing and wisdom
beyond our understanding, but we trust you with our faith, with
and with our praise, until even the end of the earth bears testimony
to your fatihfulness!
The surgery started around noon. Some brothers and sisters joined
us at the prayer room, where we used our prayers to support the
entire procedure. After 2 hours, the doctors successfully removed
1500 cc of blood clots from Joe Joe's left chest. An operating
room nurse who assisted the doctors told me, she had participated
in pediatric surgeries for more than 30 years, yet she had never
seen such a huge blood clot in a child. After half an hour, Joe
Joe's left lung slowly expanded to its normal position. However,
there was something worrisome after the surgery; the chest tube
from the left chest continues to drain out large amount of blood.
The bleeding from the chest tube worsened; at one point, the tube
was draining out more than 300 cc of blood an hour. Finally, the
rate of blood transfusion just wasn't fast enough to catch up with
the rate of blood loss, so the doctors had to use the blood that
drained out from the chest tube and put it right back in to Joe
Joe's body. At that point, the doctors decided that Joe Joe could
not use ECMO anymore, even if his lungs' recovery was not yet complete.
the afternoon, there were about 15 doctors and nurses standing
around Joe Joe's bed. Everyone was nervously staring at him, then
at the clock. It was a critical moment where they would stop the
ECMO for a few minutes and see how Joe Joe did. First, they clamped
the catheters from the ECMO machine to stop the circulation. 5
minutes went by. They tested Joe Joe's blood oxygen level ¡V it
was normal. Then, they stopped the circulation for 10 minutes.
Again, his blood oxygen level was normal. 20 minutes, half hour,
1 hour, and 2 hours went by, and Joe Joe's oxygen level continued
to hold steady. Carefully, they removed the ECMO machine completely.
However, we knew that at that point, the ECMO machine was removed
NOT because Joe Joe's lungs were healed, but because of the brisk
bleeding. We could only continue to pray that God heal Joe Joe's
Around 10 pm, Joe Joe's carbon dioxide (CO2) level started
to go up, which is a sign that his lung was failing. My husband
to stay at the hospital that night.
Around 3 am that morning, my husband called me. He said that Joe
Joe's blood CO2 level was four times higher than a normal person,
and his ventilator setting was at its maximum. The doctors told
my husband, ¡§we did everything; I don't know what to say¡¨. With
teary eyes, I called two sisters and told them what happened. For
over an hour, we prayed and prayed.
Around 5 am, the doctors decided
to start dialysis, since Joe Joe's kidney function was severely
impaired by the ECMO machine;
he barely had any urine. In order to start dialysis, they had to
turn Joe Joe to the side. Ever since Joe Joe's first surgery, they
had to turn Joe Joe every few days to prevent bed ulcers. It was
no easy task to turn Joe Joe; it required at least 5 to 6 nurses
in a coordinated effort to turn him, since there were so many tubes,
catheters, monitors, and a big ventilator.
Amazingly, after they
turned Joe Joe to his side, his CO2 level started to drop. Around
6 am, although the CO2 level is still high
compare to normal person, it has dropped to 70 (normal should be
That night, we brought Ben Ben with us to our cell
group. Brothers and sisters continued to intercede fervently for
Joe Joe; we all
believed that our God is the Lord Almighty, and He will fight this
war for us and Joe Joe. He will be victorious.
On the way home,
one of the sisters called me and shared with me a vision that God
had given her while she was praying for Joe
Joe. In the Gospel of Matthews, Jesus told
the centurion who came to ask for healing of his servant, ¡§Go!
It will be done just as
you believed it would.¡¨ For the past month that Joe Joe had been
sick, it was like a journey of faith. And we had to persevere,
in order to travel to the journey's end.
O Lord! Joe Joe truly
knows you, and we ask that the eyes of our heart may be enlightened
in order that we may know the hope to
which He has called us, the riches of His glorious inheritance
in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe. (Ephesians 1:18-19)
He is able to do immeasurably more than all
we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within
us. (Ephesians 3:20)
Early in the morning, I received terrible news from the hospital.
The nurse told me that Joe Joe's right pupil was fixed, dilated,
and unresponsive to light, which meant that there may be a blood
clot in his brain. They were rushing him to get a brain CT scan,
and they asked us to get there as soon as possible.
On the way to
the hospital, I called our pastor's wife, and I prayed to the Lord
with Psalm 91: ¡§He will cover Joe Joe with
His feathers, and under His wings Joe Joe will find refuge¡¨.
showed what we all feared most. A large blood clot had formed in
Joe Joe's right brain, with more than half of the right
brain already dead from lack of oxygen. They thought this happened
48 hours ago. The only thing that doctors could do now was a ¡§decompression
surgery¡¨, which was to insert some catheters in Joe Joe's left
brain to decrease the pressure that the swelling right brain had
on the healthy left brain.
However, the doctors wanted us to consider
this surgery very carefully. Other than the risks involved with
the surgery itself, Joe Joe's
lungs were not yet healed; he could be on ventilators indefinitely;
his kidneys were completely shut down; his liver was not working
well; his large right brain stroke would most likely paralyze the
left side of his body; he may need to use a feeding tube for the
rest of his life because he won't be able to swallow from the brain
damage; and his brain may be so damaged that he won't even recognize
us. Joe Joe was only 4 years old, and the doctor painted the most
realistic and horrifying picture that Joe Joe would have to suffer
for the rest of his life. The doctors even told us that if we agreed,
they could disconnect the ventilator and let Joe Joe go peacefully.
this day, I could still recall the expression of despair on one
of the doctor's face. He was the attending surgeon who did
most of the surgeries for Joe Joe. After pouring out his heart
and soul, after countless hours of surgeries and many sleepless
nights, after using all the newest technologies that he could offer,
he finally squatted down on the floor outside of PICU. He whispered,
¡§We were so close¡¨.
It was Sunday morning, a sister took Ben Ben
to church, and our pastor's wife came to the hospital to be with
us. As we were sitting
in the prayer room, waiting for the neurosurgeons to come, I broke
down. All the emotions that were held inside for the past month
finally exploded. I cried, ¡§Why? I don't understand! It was just
a minor cold, wasn't it?¡¨ My husband held me tightly. He comforted
me, ¡§I will always love you and our children, but only Jesus knows
what is best for Joe Joe. Let go of Joe Joe, just put him in God's
hand. If God is to save Joe Joe, we will take him everywhere to
give testimony to God, even if he is on a wheelchair. As long as
there is hope, we will not give up¡¨.
While we signed the consent
form for the brain surgery, the doctors had to do another procedure
for Joe Joe ¡V the dialysis catheter
had clotted again, and they had to insert a different catheter
for peritoneal dialysis (using Joe Joe's abdomen for dialysis).
the Sunday service, many brothers and sisters came to visit Joe
Joe. It was an afternoon of anguish and heartbreak. No one
said a word; many knelt down and prayed with tears. Lord, if this
is your will, I will obey. But please comfort us with Your Spirit!
Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord
be praised. (Job 1:21)
I finally saw Joe Joe in the afternoon. Joe
Joe's left brain had two catheters coming out, one used to lower
the pressure, and the
other to detect the oxygen level and brain pressure. It was not
until now that the hospital personnel finally allowed Ben Ben,
who had been inseparable from his twin brother Joe Joe since birth,
to visit Joe Joe in the PICU. When Ben Ben was with Joe Joe, many
ICU nurses had to turn away in tears.
In the evening, a brother
from church shared with us a vision that God gave him: even though
the situation seemed hopeless, God
had already began His work. A sister also encouraged us: pray and
pray and pray!
Many times, I felt like Apostle Peter, taking a
bold step out of the ship in the storm, yet melted in fear as he
saw the roaring
waves underneath him. I thought I had strong faith in God, yet
this faith seemed to rise and fall with the numbers on Joe Joe's
monitor! I asked myself, what did I base my faith on?
times when I thought I couldn't go on anymore. I could not see
where this road leads to, and I could not see the light
at the end of the tunnel. But God continued to comfort me with
his own words:
¡§So do not throw away your confidence; it
will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you
the will of God,
you will receive what he has promised. For in just a very little
while, He who is coming will come and will not delay.¡¨ (Hebrew
Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign
Lord comes escape from death.¡¨ (Psalm 68:20)
This morning the hospital called again, telling us that Joe Joe's
right brain continued to swell, so they had to do another ¡§procedure¡¨.
At first, the doctors worried that Joe Joe could not tolerate
being transferred from PICU to the operating room, because Joe
Joe had too many life sustaining machines at his bedside (some
prior minor surgeries were actually done right at Joe Joe's bedside).
However, Joe Joe seemed to be doing better compared to yesterday,
so the doctors decided to proceed with the surgery. They removed
part of the right brain that is already dead in order to preserve
the healthy left brain. Also, since the necrotic right brain
tissue could continue to swell, a piece of Joe Joe's scalp was
temporarily stored in the freezer.
Joe Joe's right brain tissues continue to swell and compress on
the left brain, so the doctors did another similar surgery to
remove some more dead tissues from the right brain.
Joe Joe had
three brain surgeries in three days.
Afterwards, the neurosurgeon
told me that not many adults could survive even one such surgery
on the brain; yet Joe Joe survived
as many as three. He truly believed that God was with Joe Joe.
sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that
God's Son may be glorified through it.¡¨ (John 11:4)
After Joe Joe's
three consecutive brain surgeries, my heart was suddenly very peaceful.
Joe Joe had already encountered everything
possible. He had used every instruments and machines in the hospital;
he had seen almost every doctor, and he had every complications
that there was to have. His situation could not get any worse.
And now, the doctors said that, after all the brain damage and
brain surgeries, it would be a miracle if he could still recognize
Well, if I am going to ask something of God, why not ask for
the most miraculous?
I pray to God that one day, all this will pass,
and Joe Joe's every piece of record, every X-ray films, and every
will all become a testimony to God's mercy and glory.
later, God started to answer my prayer. Filled with excitement,
the PICU nurse called me and said, ¡§Joe Joe's moved his right toe!¡¨
It didn't move much, but it surely moved.
A few days later, Joe
Joe's kidney started to make some urine, and his ventilator machine
setting was adjusted down for the first
The ventilator, which had helped Joe Joe breath for 7 weeks, was
finally removed. Because Joe Joe had been on antibiotics and
intravenous steroid for many weeks, he was dark and dry. His
abdomen rose and fell dramatically with each breadth, showing
how much effort he had to exert to breath. At least he was breathing
with his own two lungs!
That was a Sunday morning. When the pastor
announced to the congregation that Joe Joe had been taken off the
ventilator, everyone shouted,
¡§Yes! We won again!¡¨ Our Lord Himself had led us to another victory.
For the first time in 8 weeks, Joe Joe opened his eyes. I saw him
opened his mouth with great effort, and then he whispered to me
without a voice, ¡§Mom!¡¨
Thank you Lord! My child still knows me!
Today we finally left the Pediatric ICU. It was the place where
I held Joe Joe's little hands for countless nights; it was the
battleground where he walked between life and death for countless
We were driving down the 22 highway; the same freeway
that we drove for more than a hundred times between our home and
We were mostly in a hurry, since we usually got urgent news from
the PICU before we hop on the car and raced to the hospital, while
crying and calling people to pray for Joe Joe. The song we usually
listened to was ¡§You Deserve the Glory¡¨.
Today, it was still the
same music playing inside the same car. But inside the car, there
was an extra little passenger named Joe
I could not possibly say anymore to God other than what was
sung in the song:
For you are great
And your miracles are great
There is no one like you
There is no one else like you