Dear friends and family,
For the first time I am writing you not hunched over someone’s iPhone but sitting upright on an early Sunday morning typing on a brand new, beautiful laptop given to me by Steve’s brother Mike, who was with him during the accident. This is just one of so many wonderful gestures of support from the amazing Ruetschle family who are surrounding and carrying me as if I had been born to them.
I have been reading so many of your emails and postings, weeping over the love and support that is flowing out for Steve, and for me. The prayer support is phenomenal, and as I think about it I wonder that there may be as many as 10,000 people praying for Steve, between church communities, prayer chains and the many lives Steve touched personally. I am in awe and know that God’s spirit surely hovers over, beside and below Steve as he fights this truly terrible battle.
His brother Mike tells me that during the accident, both as he was lying in the ditch where they found him and as he was being transported to the helicopter, in intense pain, Steve was not only crying out to Jesus but praising him. He was blessing those who were helping, still and ever a pastor. This is Steve, this is the man that I love.
There will be bad days and good days, but yesterday was a good day. In answer to your prayers, Steve was able to receive a feeding tube yesterday. I am not sure when and if he was actually fed, but until then he had not received anything except fluids, and this will hopefully provide both nourishment and energy to him as he heals, while also being an indication that his swelling is going down.
Also, he has been fully weaned off his blood pressure medication and his blood pressure remains stable. This is HUGE as blood pressure stabilization can be tricky in spinal chord injuries.
Steve also extended his wrist a bit during a visit yesterday, which shows some life in his lower forearm muscles. Since his lower arm function is in question, this was a wonderful, hopeful sign, even though it is still a c6 motion, not below his injury; it was a new type of movement and we are grateful. In addition, his nurse found him trying to get his breathing tube out. While this was distressing to her, we all silently praised God that he had managed to get his arm up that high under such deep sedation! Unfortunately, it did occur right after a visit, so on our next visit he was more deeply sedated and we had to be more careful to not bring him too sharply into consciousness, as he then can respond with anxiety and distress over his breathing tube.
Finally, my visit with the kids went better than I could have imagined. So far, they have been with Steve’s wonderful parents, but of course, John and Darlene also need to support their son and be by his side, so they are, as we speak, headed to the wonderful beaches of South Carolina surrounded by caring, sweet cousins, aunt and uncle. They piled into the guest center where I met them surrounded by loving relatives, talking and playing. While they were clearly happy to see me, even little Zephyr showed no tears or signs of any stress whatsoever related to us having been apart. I had agonized, especially, about whether to part from Zephyr for an entire week, but as I watched him playing contentedly with his cousins, a peace enveloped me, and I knew they were exactly where they needed to be. Departure was fluid, as Zephyr left with a hand in his brother’s hand and the other comfortably squeezing his cousin Megan.
Please pray for the older boys. Jude is anxious to see his Dad and wonders why he cannot yet. Aidan, while he asks very few questions, tried to hide a few tears from me, and has clearly picked up more on the gravity of the situation. I was able to stay positive and strong for them, and I could not be more grateful for how they are doing, and how our visit went. Again, I am more grateful than I can express to Mark and Laura and her extended family for including my boys on their annual vacation, not only freeing me up to love Steve, but giving them a truly awesome experience and set of memories during this time.
I have become, especially in recent years, such a firm believer in prayers, and again, I weep over all of the love and prayer support going on out there for Steve. Yesterday, many of your prayers were answered in truly tremendous ways. Hope is beginning to rise in me, even as I also prepare for the worst, with a hundred possibilities in between. Much is yet unknown, but much is also yet possible. And all is possible in Christ.
Please continue to pray. Our immediate concern is over Steve’s temperature which is a little bit high for a spinal chord trauma patient. Please pray that his temperature returns to normal and remains steady. Anything interfering with his surgery on Monday means more time with the breathing tube and therefore more time in great discomfort and deep sedation. If surgery proceeds as scheduled, this will be a major landmark in Steve’s healing process. This will be a complicated 4-6 hour procedure. Of course, we pray that Steve’s vital signs remain strong and steady, that the surgery is a raging success and that Steve heals rapidly. He will not only be receiving a spinal fusion, with a great deal of hardware, but a bone grafting. Please pray that the bone grafting takes well. This will be an especially difficult time as whatever gains Steve has made will likely be lost post surgery. Due to the swelling around the spine from surgery, what little movement he has regained thus far will be compromised temporarily. His breathing will be ventilated again. He will look swollen and disfigured due to his position during surgery. Please pray not only for Steve’s amazing recovery but for his family as well, as we manage what we hope will be only temporary setbacks.
I cannot thank you all enough. Please, please, keep your prayers and messages coming. Steve’s family has been reading my Facebook page and now all of us are able to access your caring bridge messages. Not only are we deeply encouraged by your prayers and thoughts, but you are creating and shifting Steve’s reality for the good in very real ways thanks to your prayers.
On behalf of his family as well we give praise for each and every one of you.
Steve wrote a song based on the following verse: Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory… Eph 3:20