Sunday, June 8, 2014

A Tale Of Two Lungs

This is a living story. It may lengthen in time, as God helps me to plug in some missing pieces. But this is all to His glory.
My son, Jon David, was born in 1980. He was born with Cystic Fibrosis. By the time he was 31, it had clogged his lungs so bad that they were only 19% functional.

May 2012. Jon had a successful double-lung transplant. His natural lungs lasted over 30 years, but by this time they were functioning at 19%. This is such a short version about what a time of suffering this was, but moreso, what an amazing time this was of God's miraculous deliverance. More details will be added here later.

The remainder of 2012 and first half of 2013 were probably the healthiest two years of Jon's life. He was able to do things he had never done before, such as go to the mountains, participate in health-awareness events, travel and be involved in the lives of people more than ever.

Latter half of 2013. Jon's transplanted lungs began to deteriorate due to rejection and bacteria. By November he was almost back to the condition he had before his first transplant. Jon was admitted to Integris Baptist Hospital, in Oklahoma City, shortly after Thanksgiving 2013. During that time he went in and out of ICU, was under sedation for weeks at a time, and was near death's door several times. But God sustained him.

In early February 2014 Jon was flown via private medevac jet to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, reknown for their transplants, especially for second transplants. He was placed immediately in ICU and put under sedation. Over the next few weeks, his statistics worsened, his kidneys failed, and the doctors were in doubt they would be able to list him in time for re-transplant.

Jon David, while in ICU in Pittsburgh
Thursday, February 20, 2014. Jon's ventilator was at 100% and could help no further. His lungs from the 2012 transplant were dying. Carbon dioxide was building in his blood (normal CO2 is 35; his was way over 100, beyond lethal). The worst news was that Jon's condition was so bad, the transplant team doctors would not accept Jon as a viable candidate.

Nevertheless, God's hand, delivering, sustaining and healing power was there. God's people began to pray that God would turn the hearts of those doctors. And indeed, when God turned their hearts, it was an amazing, total, 180-degree turn. The attitude of the doctors over that very Thursday changed from Jon having no hope to there being no way they were going to let Jon die.

The doctors ordered from Europe a device called a hemolung (it is only approved in Europe and Canada, but Pittsburgh is a trial center). They were told it would arrive Monday.

Friday, February 21. The next day Jon David took a turn for the worse. He was going down fast. The doctors, along with the A-Lung company (who manufacture the hemolung, ironically located right there in Pittsburgh), were frantic. That afternoon, Pete DeComo and Alethea Wieland, CEO and Director from A-Lung (two wonderful people), called Murray Beaton of Novus Medical Inc, in Oakville, Ontario. Amazingly, Murray told them they had two unopened hemolung devices. He agreed to meet them at the border with a team who could hook it up for them. Alethea and Pete left at 5pm, heading for Canada.

Meanwhile, Jon is dying. His lungs are not exchanging CO2. Nurses and doctors are taking turns climbing up on him, pressing down on his lungs to help him exhale, letting the ventilator force air back into him, then pressing down again, over and over, to keep him alive.

Pete and Alethea drove all night from Pittsburgh to the Canada border as fast as they could. Pennsylvania is a leading state in speed limit enforcement. They did not see one policeman. Their route took them around Lake Erie, through Buffalo, New York, and on to Niagara Falls and the Canada border. That area is the snow capital of America. There was not one flake of snow on the ground, only a few snowflakes occasionally in the air.

Saturday, February 22. Pete and Alethea arrived in the wee hours of the night and were met by Murray at the border, as well as a team to help install the device when they returned. Canadian border clearance was a miracle in itself. Once cleared they sped back to Pittsburgh with two hemolung devices, followed by the technical team. They arrived back in Pittsburgh Saturday morning around 9am.

A view of Jon's ICU room, the hemolung on the left and dialysis machine on the right, all running continually
The technicians immediately went to work hooking it up. By 10am they were able to begin running Jon's blood through it, and within 3-4 hours, his CO2 went down from 130 to 80.

God used all of these people and circumstances to save Jon David. This weekend was nothing short of a succession of miracles and deliverance. Because of His great intervention, that hemolung kept Jon David alive. To God be the glory forever.

Jon & Sallie, taken Sat, June 6, 2014
Selfie taken by Jon on Sat, July 12, 2014.
God has kept Jon from destruction so many times. He has delivered him immediately from acute attacks and has sustained him long-term. Once Jon's right lung collapsed partially, and that took him downhill fast. Again, God's people prayed. By the next morning all traces of the problem had disappeared.

June 2014. Jon has been in the hospital over 6 months. It has taken its toll both on him and on Sallie. The eyes in this picture tell the story of a young couple's suffering over a long time.

But, it also testifies of gratitude to so many people who unselfishly gave their all. Moreover, it glorifies a wonderful God Who touched, delivered and kept Jon in the palm of His hand, sustaining him when he didn't know from moment to moment if he would make it. God's unfathomable love and kindness surpass all understanding.

Our hearts are full with thanks

Lord, You are more
Than all this world to me.
The dearest Friend
That I have ever known.
And it will take
The whole eternity
To thank You for
The love that You have shown.

Post-edit: Jon was discharged from UPMC on Saturday, June 27. He is still in Pittsburgh doing clinicals until his anti-rejection meds are balanced. He is on dialysis for kidney issues and returned to the hospital for a few acute issues, but all in all is doing well. He returns home August 23. We are so grateful to UPMC, Dr. Bermudez, all the doctors and staff there, the amazing A-Lung family, some wonderful Canadians, and to our beautiful God Who orchestrated, intervened and delivered Jon so many times. One of the doctors told Jon, "Your God does many thing for you in mysterious ways."

Jon left Pittsburgh Saturday, Aug 23rd and arrived home in Moore, Oklahoma, on Monday, Aug 25th. It was so nice to see him for a little while as they passed through Tulsa. His kidneys took a bit of a hit, so he is on dialysis. But he is doing well and looks good. Thank you, Jesus.

Some additional links:


  1. What a tremendous story.I just read about it in the Toronto Star. Your intercessory prayers worked. There is a God, and your son Jon David is still with you.

    Thank you for sharing it with the world. To the inventors of the A Lung: Thanks for going to science class and developing the unit that bought Jon David the time to get the transplant. Amen

  2. I just read the article from the Toronto Star. Such an excellent article and so happy so many went above and beyond so everything worked. I can only hope this story is widely distributed through the USA and they get approved promptly.
    Jim from Oakville.

  3. God the Almighty does really care about His children! Beautiful ,but painful for Jon David and all his family. Amen to Jesus!

  4. Thank you for sharing. Love & miss you guys, hope you can come my way in the future. May health & happiness find you every day! Tina Anchorage, AK

  5. What a great story.
    I would love to get an update on how he is doing.
    God Bless

    1. Jon left Pittsburgh Saturday, Aug 23rd and arrived home in Moore, Oklahoma, on Monday, Aug 25th. It was so nice to see him for a little while as they passed through Tulsa. His kidneys took a bit of a hit, so he is on dialysis. But he is doing well and looks good. Thank you, Jesus

    2. Thank you so much for the update. I'm glad to hear he is doing well and that he is looking good - I pray his Kidneys will improve (not familiar with kidney disease) but he is in great hands it sounds from the big guy up above and I'm sure from the medical profession. My brother is currently being assessed for a lung transplant - it is a very scary time. I hope to keep contact to see how Jon is doing. Take care and all the best.