I had the opportunity to meet someone through whom God showed His love in a new way to me and I think I’m finally at a place to put words to my thoughts as best as I can.
On Tuesday afternoon I received an urgent call from my friend Guy Graham. He told me that there was a woman in a Fresno hospital in a desperate situation.
The woman, Janet Rivera, had a heart attack two years ago and is severely brain damaged. With a feeding tube, she is not dying, but doctors say she is unlikely to get better.
In early July, medical decisions on her behalf were put in the hands of a court appointed county guardian who decided, based on doctor’s recommendations, that she was not going to get better and that it was best to take away all life support measures, including her ventilator and the hydration and feeding tubes. The order came against the family’s wishes, including that of her husband, who lost his right of guardianship in June due to his own medical problem in his fight against prostate cancer.
As of Tuesday, she had been about 10 or so days without food or water. She faced death due to dehydration and starvation.
The story hit home for Guy. Years ago, he was in a severe automobile accident in which his heart stopped numerous times. He received severe brain injuries and was in a coma for I believe 18 days. He was in her place. He was very much alive, just as she is, he seemed to infer in his earnest conversation. Janet’s situation was significant for his parent, who were by his side during that time, and his wife.
They went to the hospital and asked me and some other friends in our church to join them at the hospital to pray for Janet and possibly engage in peaceful protest. That day, only one news station cover the story and not until that week.
The weigh of the situation was heavy for me; she was on the verge of death by starvation and/ or dehydration. I did have peace that God had her in His hands and that He would be glorified.
When we got there in the evening Guy Sr. had greeted us with incredible news. Earlier in the afternoon, the nurses were given orders—they didn’t know who gave them— to resume feeding Janet.
We also had the privilege of joining the Grahams in visiting Janet in her room and I’m very grateful for that. The Grahams were talking to her and encouraging her, and a few times she smiled. They wrote the messages “She is so valuable” and “She is not forgotten” on red duct tape and gently affixed them to the wall before we left so that the nurses could attend to her.
It was an overwhelming beautiful moment and I sensed such love in the room and after that it was thick in my chest. I rode back form the hospital not having any words but feeling great joy for her. I know the others did as well. On my way back to work I stopped to get something to eat and was grateful that Janet was now able to eat, too. Something so simple.
She is beautiful. I could see that, knowing that that is how our father saw her. Her physical condition didn’t diminish her.
I found out in the coming days that it was the county guardian that called for the feeding tubes to be reattached and a judge ordered that these remain until a future official court order.
This coming Tuesday. The judge will hear the family and the pro-bono lawyer who assisted in the Terry Shaivo case along with the guardian and doctors to make a more permanent decision. According to the news, if the judge decides the county does not have the right to take Rivera off life support and allow her to die, the family will petition to take back guardianship, and place it in the hands of one of her cousins.
She is very much alive. The news keeps saying that she is unconscious. I’m not exactly sure what they mean. She was greatly limited in response, but she responded.
She is fully dependent on others for care, including nutrition. What importance should this have on the determination of whether the care should cease? Should the probably (according to doctors) that she will not improve make a difference?
I ask those reading this to seek God in prayer concerning this.
(I will not ask what to pray for, but would encourage you, in seeking His mind and heart, to ask Him)