Miracle in the ICU
My Brother Michael, an Angel Uber driver named Michael, a true story of faith, hope, prayer and ongoing perseverance
This picture does not do justice to the experience I had January 22, 2020 when Mom, Dad and I arrived to the ICU unit in Casper Wyoming. Sitting in my den with my husband and older son, I received the panic call from my mom that my brother had a massive stroke. I quickly drove to Mom and Dad’s where we received the final call from the doctor’s saying we needed to travel there as soon as possible. The news was not good. They were air lifting Michael to a city, 2 hours away from his hometown in Thermopolis to a larger city, Casper Wyoming.
In the midst of total chaos and panic, with the help of friends, we had flights booked out of Raleigh, NC at 6 am the next morning. Here is where our God story begins.
Watching my mother desperately needing to get to her son was heart wrenching. Mom has always been my brother’s rock, the one to understand him the most. They share a special bond.
Michael has always had a passion for the outdoors. He graduated with a degree in Wildlife and Fishery. He worked many years as a park ranger and later moved to Alaska living in Dutch Harbor, then Homer where he worked with the Deadliest Catch team then later moved to Nome where he married his German wife, Nadja. Nadja and Michael have lived in Thermopolis Wyoming for the last 2 years. Michael’s true passions are genealogy and history. He works for a museum in Thermopolis.
Miracle One: God sent the doctors
The day of the stroke Michael was working at the museum. Doctors, of all groups, happened to be meeting in the reserved conference room. Michael normally would be getting off earlier but he decided to work late so to tend to the needs of the doctors. Michael felt lightheaded, dizzy and off balance and he sat down in a chair. The director of museum could tell something was not right and she called Nadja to come immediately. He began talking and not making sense. Michael refused 911. Through the doctors exam they made the 911 call. Due to the quick response of the doctors there and response from the 911 medic team, Michael was intubated and air lifted to Casper.
We begin our descent into Casper, Wyoming.
Miracle Two: God sends an Uber driver named Michael
Just before landing, I am looking out the window. The topography is so peaceful in Wyoming. I felt Presence and I prayed. Normally, when I pray, I pray… Dear God… this moment I called out to Jesus. Jesus, I do not normally ask for signs but I need one today. I need to know you are truly among us in what we are about to face.
I click on my Uber app, destination… Wyoming Medical Center. My, sweet mom, almost 80, pushing 2 pieces of carry on luggage and her large handbag; I’m pushing dad in his wheelchair while pushing the other carry ons. We pull up to curbside.
Uber Driver pulls up. We get in. It all feels so eerie being in Wyoming, not to celebrate exploring the sights with Nadja and Michael but to be approaching ICU, not knowing what is happening. A somber silence seemed to cover the inside of the Uber car.
Uber driver asks, “What brings you to Casper?” “My brother has had a massive stroke. They airlifted him yesterday from Thermopolis to here.” He shared his deep concern and later through small talk, he says… “My wife and I have traveled to Thermopolis a few times… we sell jewelry to a museum there.” “My brother works for a museum there.” The connection is made! In a town 2 hours from where my brother Michael lives, I click on my Uber app and of all the Uber drives, of the all the cities where we arrive, the one Uber driver knows my brother! One month prior to my brother’s stroke, the Uber driver and his wife had been sitting, meeting with Michael in that exact conference room!
We pull up to the hospital. The Uber driver says, “My name is Michael. I normally don’t hand out my cell number but I want you to have it in case you need anything while you are here.” He then proceeded to say, “Do you pray?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “My wife, Allison and I will be praying for your brother.”
Inside the fog of what all is happening… we arrive on the floor of the ICU. I don’t recall much of what I was feeling. We begin our travel down the long hallway towards the steel ICU doors. Something redirects my attention. Why do I stop? When did Mom begin pushing Dad instead of me? I seem lifted away from the scene of walking towards the steel doors. But wait… we are in the middle of a panic situation. We need to get to Michael as quickly as possible. He’s not expected to live.
I am somehow redirected, yet unaware at the time this is all unfolding. I am able to see in hindsight.
Something of a soft blue color catches my attention. I walk over to the wall where a small 9 by 11 picture hangs on the wall. I am drawn to it. It hangs alongside other pictures but the hues inside this small, framed picture gain my attention. It is the picture you see here. What you don’t see is what it says on the tiny, brass plate.
Miracle in the ICU… Jesus is in the midst of all the doctors.
Jesus, no doubt provided me the sign I needed… “Take notice, acknowledge me. I’m in the middle of all of this.”
Michael survived the stroke. The nurses hand us a red folder saying, “We hand out very few of the red ones because they don’t survive.”
We had 8 days with him. Dad’s breathing worsened due to the higher elevations and we had to return to NC.
Michael our Uber driver picked us up and assured us he would continue praying for Michael and our family.
Over the course of 6 weeks, Michael is transported to one of the top 10 rehab hospitals in the nation, Elkhorn. Michael begins intense physical, occupational and speech therapy.
Six weeks have passed and we are approaching the deadline of the 45 days that Michael can remain there due to insurance coverage running out.
Michael’s condition is not where he can return home. He cannot walk. He remains on a feeding tube and catheter. He continues to struggle with speech and swallowing.
We are all praying.
“God, I know you are in this. I lean on your faith, not my own”. I prayed this every single day, letting Him know I was leaning on what He could do.
One week short of Michael being left without a place to go, the therapists at Elkhorn called QLI, a non-profit, rehab/care facility in Omaha Nebraska! Ten hours from Casper.
Less than a week, QLI flies a representative to Elkhorn to observe my brother in his rehab routine. They then fly back to QLI the same day to give the report to the team at QLI.
In the meantime, insurance is being informed of Michael’s need to qualify for him to be transported to QLI so to begin extended care there.
Days of uncertainty and fervent prayer followed.
We are now in the first of March. The corona virus is creeping into our territory as well as all surrounding states.
Schools begin shutting down.
Second week of March and I am at school, the last day before we are to close our doors due to the virus. In the midst of the total chaos that our school is enduring as we process all of this, I get the call…
The caseworker at Elkhorn; “Michael is approved for QLI however they have said he may not fly due to risk of infection from the virus.” “How am I to get him there, I ask?” “I don’t know,” is the case workers reply. Not the response I expected to hear.
I can’t worry Mom.
“God, what do we do now?” I turn to my teacher friends. We brainstorm. Nothing…no way anyone is transporting my brother in the midst of a terrible virus affecting our nation. Who is going to drive him the 10 hour distance? I am at a total loss. I walk away from the teachers and I go into a dark classroom and pray.
Michael! Our Uber driver. I still have his contact.
I call him… 8 weeks later… He picks up the phone. “Hey, with excitement! How’s your brother?” He too, had kept my contact, thankfully! I’m sure he never thought he would hear from us again after we left Casper 8 weeks ago.
“Michael, I need a favor. My brother has been approved for a top notch care facility in Omaha Nebraska and I have no way of getting him there.” “This is a miracle you called me. I am in need of work. Uber driving has slowed down dramatically over the last week.” We hang up. This is Monday. He calls back. There is a snow storm coming in. We need to leave tomorrow morning so we can get him there.
May I add an insert here…
Just before Michael’s stroke, a pastor friend came into the museum and told Michael and Nadja they must watch the movie TOGO. Togo was the lead sled dog that led the team in pushing through the snowstorm towards Nome Alaska in 1925 to transport the serum needed to combat the outbreak of the disease diphtheria. So many were in quarantine then as are now.
Crazy, of all movies recommended just a week before Michael’s stroke. Michael is transported just before a snowstorm through a long trek of 11 hours after having a massive stroke in the midst of a terrible virus that’s quarantining thousands of people.
Tuesday, the day Michael’s insurance expires from Elkhorn Michael is picked up at 6 am. Angel Michael and his wife pull up curbside. They load Michael, Nadja and the wheelchair but there is not room for luggage.
They begin the long, long drive in a cramped car, catheter and feeding tube. They move toward uncertainty with only faith, endurance and perseverance; moving forward with whatever storms they have to face. Much like Togo.
Midway there I receive a phone call from QVI. They are slowly shutting things down here in Nebraska. We are meeting in 30 minutes and the discussion is we may not be able to admit new “intake patients”.
Mom is with me in the car when I receive this call and we are both in shock. What now? Mom crumbles.
I text Nadja the message. She cannot talk in front of my brother. I give her the fearful news. They continue driving. We continue praying.
Several hours later I receive the call. “We are able to admit him but Nadja may not be able to come in. We may have to quarantine him for 14 days.”
Though not good news there as Nadja had been by Michael’s side, living on a cot in the Elhorn facility for 8 weeks… to separate them could be devastating for both of them, mentally and fear of a setback for Michael.
I texted Nadja… “Text me when you arrive and just tell me if you are in or not.”
Eleven hours later, they make it in… both of them.
Angel Michael begins the trek back to Wyoming to beat the snowstorm.
The facility? It’s worth Googling… qliomaha.com
Acres and acres of outdoor beauty. Therapy? They help to rebuild his motor skills through archery, fishing and canoeing! Michael is being restored in ways he doesn’t yet see.
He still has many mountains to climb. Some days are more difficult than others.
We live inside this God story. We see where Michael was and where he is now. I only want Michael to know that God places the pavers into our pathway. We must slowly step on each one of them, trusting a Power much greater than ourselves. We must fight every battle with faith. God shows up in the midst of the worst of circumstances. God is love. God is Presence.
Michael caught a fish today.
Spring has sprung and God’s showing up no matter what!
We will never understand there seems some miracles, some not… we can only look to the One who knows even when we don’t.