Update: Today's Daily Herald (Elgin edition) carries the story of Victor's passing. Click the link below to read the article. Or go to www.dailyherald.com and choose Elgin as the community to read the article.
Rob, Victor, Brad and Bob at a World Cup game in Chicago
ANATOMY OF A FRIENDSHIP
Victor first knocked on our door in September 1977. It was 7:30 a.m., and there he stood, baggage in hand. He had come to attend the Bible Institute in Quito, Ecuador. This was our second year in Ecuador, and I was becoming accustomed to unannounced arrivals coming for dinner, for the weekend, for the year, or for a lifetime. Victor acclimated well; the Bible School students were housed on the 3rd floor of our home. He made friends instantly with everyone, including my young sons, ages 6 and 4. Within a matter of days, both boys met him after school each day with a soccer ball in hand, begging to be taught another juggling move. He always took time to show them just one more trick, to practice just one more time. He turned out to be an outstanding student and a good speaker. He frequently was asked to other churches to speak on the weekends. He was also a most welcome addition to the Bible School choir. I was the music teacher in those days, and the students were just learning to sing in harmony. Victor was an apt student. Not only did he learn to sing tenor, but he was able to lead the section, teaching others. He was also an accomplished soloist. We left Ecuador in 1979. Victor finished his final year and returned to Peru to help with church work there. We didn’t hear directly from Victor for several years. (No internet in those days! There were only bulletin boards with telephone modems, and I was not tech-savvy, nor was South America wired for that technology. In Quito one was fortunate to have electricity for 6 days a week and phones would occasionally work.) Then one Saturday morning in 1982, the phone rang. It was a minister friend in California who said he had a “very lonely young man” there. Victor had accompanied another missionary to the U.S., then had been encouraged to branch out on his own for speaking engagements and had run out of places to go. Again, in those days there were not many Spanish-speaking churches within our fellowship circle. Victor’s English was not adequate to manage a sermon in English. My husband got on the phone and arranged 4 weekends of services for Victor between Pasadena and Chicago, wired Victor some money for transportation, and said we’d see him here in a month to help him plan for the future. Victor became part of the family. My boys were delighted; soccer lessons resumed. Victor remained in Elgin for several years, studying English, working with us in the church, and sometimes fulfilling speaking engagements on weekends. He was a protégé to Bob, a little brother to me and a big brother to my boys. Then, he decided his English was sufficient to attend college here in the U.S. He headed off to St. Paul, Minnesota to complete his education. He maintained an exemplary record there. On graduation, he resumed evangelizing, this time not limited by language. He traveled the U.S. and Canada over the course of several years, maintaining contact with us on a regular basis. He returned here at various points in time, spending some Christmases with us, attending soccer games, just doing the normal family stuff. Victor had many close friends here, so when he found the love of his life, his wife Marta, they settled in Elgin. He became a real estate agent, got married and, the joy of his life, his son, Sammy was born. That part of the story is not mine to tell. However, they have remained close friends and are faithful members of the church.
Then Victor’s illness began. (For the rest of the story, see this blog, December 19)
All who knew him will feel his loss. We will miss his sense of humor, his quick wit, his wonderful singing voice, his calm disposition. My life has been enriched by knowing him.
"It is with a broken heart that I need to say that at 8:30 p.m. tonight Victor went to sleep and walked into the arms of God. It is with a heavy heart and great sadness that I tell you this news. His battle was a long one, but he fought hard. The Lord wanted to make him whole and give him peace and joy once again. As soon as all the funeral arrangements are made we will give you all that information. Again we want to thank each and everyone of you for your prayers and support through all of this. The King is still on the throne and tonight he will be giving Victor a crown as well. We ask that you also keep Marta and Sammy in your prayers as well as Phylis. It was not in vain that she gave of herself and she too will be rewarded."
UPDATE: 8:30 a.m. Marta just called. She's been at the hospital all night. Victor's blood pressure is dropping. She believes he's in his final moments now. I'm at school and can't get away at this moment. I was hoping to be up there tonight, but right now it looks like that isn't going to happen.
I Corinthians 13:12-13 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, even as I was also fully known. But now remain faith, hope, and love: these three. The greatest of these is love.
9:00 p.m. update Marta called a couple of hours ago. The doctor told her this afternoon that there is one additional medicine they will give Victor to try to bring his blood pressure up. However, he also said plainly that in his opinion, Victor is dying. With blood pressure this low, it's just a matter of time until he has a heart attack. Marta went to the hospital tonight to spend the night. Since I just started teaching today, I don't have the strength to go up tonight. Rodney said he's going up tomorrow evening and I'll go then.
Victor remains critical. Doctors really don't know what to tell us. They are trying to clear up the infection. His fever has subsided. However, his blood pressure is low again. They are giving him small amounts of the anti-rejection drug. Although at the time of surgery last week, doctors thought the liver LOOKED unhealthy, it is still showing signs of working: biliruben counts are almost normal. Marta is doing well. Her faith remains strong.
Back-to-School Tomorrow I go back to work. I think I'm as ready as I'm going to be. I do get a bit sore and tired after several hours work, but the cure is probably just working. I'll be sure to avoid those giant feet ready to tromp me!
No news about Victor; Marta hasn't called yet today. Maybe later.
Meantime, life goes on. I must get on with lesson plans. The Iditarod awaits us!
The downward spiral continues with the same problems. Victor's condition is critical. The infection has now spread throughout his body. A bacteriologist was called in to consult; more tests were done to pinpoint the specific bacteria in order to prescribe antibiotic more precisely. They have now discontinued the anti-rejection medication and are treating the infection with massive doses of antibiotics. Medically, the liver has little or no chance of survival. Doctors have opted to sacrifice this liver and treat the infection in hopes of placing Victor once more on the National Donor list for a new transplant. However, until the infection is gone, he is not eligible for a transplant because he is not ready for immediate surgery.
I know full well that God is able, that these medical complications are as nothing compared to his creative restorative power. I can say with the three Hebrew children: "If you throw us in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace and anything else you might cook up, O king. But even if he doesn't, it wouldn't make a bit of difference, O king. " - The Message, Daniel 3:17-18
Still, this morning I yelled, "Why, God?" And he answered me clearly.
"Where were you when I created the earth? Tell me, since you know so much! Who decided on its size? Certainly you'll know that! Who came up with the blueprints and measurements? How was its foundation poured, and who set the cornerstone, While the morning stars sang in chorus and all the angels shouted praise? And who took charge of the ocean when it gushed forth like a baby from the womb? That was me! I wrapped it in soft clouds, and tucked it in safely at night. Then I made a playpen for it, a strong playpen so it couldn't run loose, And said, 'Stay here, this is your place. Your wild tantrums are confined to this place.' And have you ever ordered Morning, 'Get up!' told Dawn, 'Get to work!' So you could seize Earth like a blanket and shake out the wicked like cockroaches?. . . Do you know the first thing about death? Do you have one clue regarding death's dark mysteries?" - The Message: Job 38:4-13, 17
And I answered softly, "Not my will but Thine be done."
Pray with me: "The God I serve can heal Victor completely from this condition and anything else that might occur. But even if he doesn't, it won't make a bit of difference, I will serve Him anyway with my whole heart."
UPDATE. Victor continues in serious condition. He has a very serious infection (still) that is not responding to treatment. The difficulty is that the strong antibiotics needed for the infection endanger the liver. Conversely, the anti-rejection meds for the liver are immune system repressants which hinder his ability to fight infection. Some of the test results which appeared to indicate low liver function were due to the toxins in his blood from the infection. (Don't ask me for details, I am clueless. I am merely a parrot here.) At this point they think the liver is still viable. The doctors are unsure what steps to take, but are continuing with aggressive treatment for the infection. One of the doctors did say that there is a 70% that the liver will become inviable. There is talk of another transplant. But the big IF is the infection issue must be resolved. Yesterday his temperature reached 104 at one point.
You're probably as confused as I am about now. All I can say is, we are still in need of a miracle.
Pleading Divine Intervention Versus Submitting to God’s Sovereignty
We know the prayer so well. We recite it. We sing it. We teach it in Sunday School. “Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Luke 1:2)
Only occasionally, during times of duress when life has sent us one of those incomprehensibly difficult moments do we really think about the words. We know, also, that Jesus prayed thy will be done: “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 42:22) With 2,000 years of hindsight, we now understand that his crucifixion was necessary. Only in moments of illumination (Maybe watching The Passion of the Christ?) or times of stress do we have a glimmer of understanding of Christ’s agony in facing his final hour.
There is immense release, freedom and a “peace that passes understanding” that accompanies yielding to the sovereignty of God against our human desires, our finite understanding of the situation.
On the other hand, we know well that God intervenes supernaturally in human situations even in the face of sin and failure. Moses recounts his prayer on one such occasion, Deut 9:25-29: "So I went down on my face in prayer before the Lord for forty days and forty nights; because the Lord had said that he would put an end to you. And I made prayer to the Lord and said, O Lord God, do not send destruction on your people and your heritage, to whom, by your great power, you have given salvation … Or it may be said in the land from which you have taken them, Because the Lord was not able to take them into the land which he said he would give them, and because of his hate for them, he has taken them out to put them to death in the waste land. But still they are your people and your heritage, whom you took out by your great power and by your stretched-out arm.
Moses had the chutzpah to remind God that people are watching, that the world (the land from which they had been redeemed) would judge the outcome. So today, will you join me in a two-fold prayer:
“O Lord God, send healing and wholeness to Victor today. We have followed your leading, have listened to your voice. The situation is well beyond human control and we’re asking for your divine intervention. Let this situation become a testimony in the community to your goodness, to your power, to your glory. I know that you are well able to overcome medical difficulties and we’re asking you to do so. However, God, I also acknowledge your sovereignty and declare wholeheartedly: ‘Not my will but Thine be done.’ AMEN
Marta just called. Today Victor's temperature is 102 and he's bleeding internally. It doesn't look good at all. The doctors are talking about another transplant. Surgery isn't even a consideration with 102 temperature, so he can't even be placed on a transplant list right now. We really need a miracle!
Victor needs another miracle. During the surgery on Friday, doctors fixed a small leak in Vic's intestine. (No wonder he has had an infection that he couldn't get rid of!). That's the good news. However, they also discovered that the bile duct which has been giving so many problems is now seriously occluded and is impeding blood flow to the liver. Thus, the liver is showing signs of trauma. Should this liver fail, it would mean another transplant would be needed to save his life. Another surgery is planned today to attempt to open the bile duct. Maybe it's not too late for this liver.
I talked to Marta yesterday. Victor continues to improve. However, the difficulties continue as well. Doctors do not agree as to whether he has a bile leak or not. Some say yes, some say no. Exploratory surgery is a possibility. Needless to say, Victor is not wanting another surgery. The good news is that he is now aware of what is being proposed. The infection continues. Antibiotics and anti-rejection drugs are a bit tricky to give together. The one tends to work against the other. Curing an infection without incurring rejection is a balancing act. There are absolutely no signs of rejection. The liver is healthy.
Doctors are also considering some sort of kidney procedure to spur his kidneys into action. They're thinking there may be some kind of blockage created by so much time abed. Sorry this is a bit vague. I only half understand what they're saying...medical terminology is not my forte.
However, this much is clear. Victor needs continued prayer. He is improving. Although the doctors are not sure what is happening, God has it all well in hand. Just keep praying: for his kidneys to begin working, for the infection to heal, for whatever bile leak there may be to cease. And we give thanks for the progress made!
I have regained my taste for coffee. Does that mean I'm an adult again??? One interesting side effect of the liver resection has been my change in food tastes. Doctors said I could eat anything I wanted, but some foods have not appealed to me, mostly acidic or very strong flavored foods. (I've been in a bland phase) Among them was coffee, my former all-time favorite drink. For guests last night I opened a fresh bag of Nicaraguan coffee beans, added a bit of Mexican cinnamon bark to the grinder and , voila, a delicious brew. It smelled so good I decided to try once again. To my delight, I actually liked it!! And...as I write, there's a small cup of Carobou mocha sitting at my right hand! Note, small rather than the 24 ounce cups I consumed before. Moderation!
I've still not returned to work. I'm thinking maybe one more week, if the Dr. will agree. I still experience pain and fatigue if I attempt anything resembling a full day's work....a full week I haven't even tried.
Victor continues recooperating slowly. I haven't heard from Marta in the last couple of days which usually means that there are no significant changes. Major steps forward or difficulties she always reports immediately.
Thanks again for your prayers for Victor's continued recovery.
Celebrating small things. Marta just called with good news. Victor was able to sit up today. . . for three hours. He's very tired now, and sleeping again. Progress comes in such small steps, but every step is to be celebrated. My continued gratitude for your prayer.
As for me, the question is to work or not to work. Or rather, when to work? The Doctor wanted me to wait three months which I adamantly refused to listen to at first. Now that 5 weeks are up, however, and I'm good for 3-4 hours a day before I'm exhausted, I wonder if he didn't have a point. As it stands I go back on the 13th....don't have the release yet. I wonder if I could possible wait until the 20th? the 27th?? Teaching is such a demanding job...there's no such thing as half days...at least I can't see how I could manage to do anything effective with a half day. I suppose this is where the waiting for God's timing comes in.
Victor continues to recover, slowly. The infection is still problematic; his kidneys, too, have not yet decided to return to function. However, he is much more alert and active. He really wants to go home and doesn't want Marta to leave his side. He's also restless and pulls at various tubes, tries to sit up, etc. Just a different stage of recovery. Doctors are optimistic for full recovery. Thanks for your continued prayers.
As for me, I'm somewhat like the sprinter who can't take a marathon. For short periods of time, I can do normal activities, albeit slowly. Then for a period of time, I sit as activities swirl around me, kind of like being in the eye of the hurricane. Or, maybe a better metaphor is hiding in the cleft of the Rock. Bob is still doing double-duty at home although I have resumed most of my responsibilities at church. Return to work? I'm taking it under advisement! :)
I'm a fellow traveller on this planet, bent on making a difference in the lives I touch.
Sometimes I teach: Sra. Frizzle.
Sometimes I cook: Mexibilly Cuisine.
Sometimes I write: Color Me Ozark.
Sometimes I photograph: PJ's Life, Light and Lens.
Sometimes I share life experiences: Bits and Pieces. I was a living liver donor, December 29, 2005. Then I was diagnosed with breast cancer August 6, 2006. (It still takes my breath away to write that!) After a left radical mastectomy and a year of chemotherapy I was declared cancer-free. What a roller coaster ride! From healthy-as-a-horse liver donor to a battle with cancer, all in the space of a few months!
Sometimes I counsel: Beauty for Ashes. I've come to realize that the call of God on my life includes the task of sharing with others those dark moments, those difficult times at the end of human strength when God's Grace and Mercy has carried me through. That same Grace and Mercy is availble to YOU...whatever path you may be on, whatever valley you may be crossing. God is with you.
I can be contacted through: www.jccelgin.org ****
Y abri un blog en Espanol. Anicos y piezas.