UnCanny Coincidence or the Potential Power of Prayer

If you prefer to read only the coincidences in the narrative, look for the 3 *** in the text below.

Below is a brief synopsis of the dates and happenings that took place between November of 2015 and today, December 16, 2016. I will let you decide if what transpired was “luck” or “Divine Intervention.” I hope to write this entire story in more detail someday, and have it run in local papers and magazines.

For now, however, this will give you an idea of almost everything that “fell into place” regarding my knee replacement surgery on November 12, 2015.

The knee became infected, and I spent last Christmas in the Altoona hospital having it cleaned out, and a new synthetic part placed back into the joint. I was admitted via the ER, and was in more pain than I've ever experienced before. This includes my first knee surgery and back-to-back open heart surgeries a decade earlier.

The photo below shows the infection the day I was taken to the ER:

About this same time, I was honored and humbled that I was placed on so many church prayer lists in this area and the Cambria County area too, the area in which I grew up. Family and friends everywhere from Philly to the west coast also let it be-known that they too were praying for my leg to heal and for the infection to finally be stopped.

Wound vacs, home IV drips, visits to the orthopedic surgeon and appointments with a plastic surgeon (which averaged once a week) all followed after I was released from the hospital on Dec., 27.

The wound did not heal however, and four months later, on April 9, I was taken back to ER at Altoona. I don't know how the pain could have been worse than it was in December but it was. On April 14, I had a major reconstructive surgery involving removing the entire joint, moving a muscle flap from my calf to my shin and two skin grafts to help cover the ever-swelling leg. During this surgery a movable temporary spacer was placed in my leg. It was packed with antibiotic beads and the metal rods ran within my shin bone (tibia) and into my thigh bone (femur). Each clean-out I want to add, involved removing more of the femur due to the infection being deep within that bone. My incision ran from my ankle to the upper thigh.

Below is what the leg looked like after the April surgery (two photos):

I spent the next 10 days in the hospital bed, not allowed out of bed except for sitting on the potty. I was not permitted to allow the leg to be placed any lower than my body for those 10 days. So I had to keep the leg on the bed even when I sat on the portable pot. I guess my 7 day constipation, related to the pain meds, might have been a good thing. At least I didn't have to go until 7 days after the surgery. But once the laxatives kicked in – LOOK OUT! I know, too much information there.

From there, I spent another two weeks at Homewood in Martinsburg doing some rehab. I had to be taken from there 4 times due to complications, resulting in visits back to the surgeon's office and the hospital. And the nurses there (at Homewood) started the second IV drip procedures. I was released on Mother's Day in May.

More weekly visits followed with both the knee surgeon and the plastic surgeon that moved the calf muscle and made the skin grafts. More wound vacs, and more IV drips, (this was the second set), each running six weeks in length, and administered every six hours round the clock. My poor wife never so much as flinched or said one negative word during each of those 6-week sessions. That was a total of 336 hookups, each running over one hour in duration. ***I feel blessed that she was able to take care of me, and with a positive attitude each and every time.

Meanwhile I was told countless times that the prayers were continuing. Did I begin to doubt their effectiveness? You bet I did. I also fell into a deep depression and dealt with severe anxiety.

I had no appetite and although I needed to carry a little less weight at the time, (losing 70 lbs total), was not the healthy way to do it. I became anemic and developed blood readings indicating that a severe inflammation was still taking place somewhere within my body. Also the wound once again never quite closed, and it seeped continuously. The vast amounts of dressings, bandages, ointments, and in-office clean outs continued. And my wife, tackling all the necessary assignments again, round the clock, still never complained.

About 3 and a half months after the major surgery, I had an appointment with Dr. M, the local surgeon that performed all 3 operations. I honestly think he forgot about me, and dropped the ball so to speak. When I asked him about how long those antibiotic beads were effective – he answered, “six weeks.” and gave me further bad news in that this was the first time amputation was mentioned.

He indicated that he had a connection with a Dr. G., at Geisinger and that his staff would call me regarding an appointment there. Meanwhile we waited, and again, I think he forgot about me totally. I could not understand why he did not act after the six weeks' time frame expired.

Meanwhile the prayers continued, but my emotional state was shot. And the wound still was not closed.

***A visit with my cardiologist two weeks later was the first positive occurrence that fell into place regarding my situation. Dr. Shanoudy, insisted that we should not wait any longer, and that we should demand that Dr. M., and his staff get moving on the Geisinger idea.

My wife called the chief nurse at Dr. M's office that afternoon and told her that my cardiologist was worried that the infection could easily move to my heart valves (also made of metal) and that we shouldn't be sitting around waiting. Only then did they contact a doctor at Geisinger.

Almost four months again after the third surgery, I finally had an appointment at Geisinger. I have no idea why so much time was allowed to pass with the temporary spacer being only effective for six weeks.

But the prayers continued.

When we finally got to the Dr's office in Danville, we soon learned that the local Altoona office SENT ME TO THE WRONG surgeon. There we were, being told by an amputation specialist, Dr. P., that my odds of beating this infection was (and I am quoting him here), “very very very very slim.”

An emotional ride home was followed the next morning with a phone call to the local office, explaining to them what went on. The nurse apologized, called Geisinger and set us up with an appointment a week or so later. This time with an experienced orthopedic surgeon, Dr. G.

Dr. G. was an excellent surgeon but had a horrible bed-side manner. He continued to remind me, that odds were highly favorable that amputation was inevitable. He inserted yet another temporary spacer, this time however, it was not movable. I had to keep the leg straight for six weeks. Meanwhile my mental state worsened, as more of my femur was removed again and the mixture of medications was beginning to take a further toll on my mind and body.

After a six day hospital stay, I was released and my wife once again had to take on another six week, IV drip. (another 168 sessions). We were instructed to come back in a week for a follow-up, post op visit.

My wife got the reminder call in mid-week and about fell off her chair. We were told that the surgeon, Dr. G no longer worked at Geisinger. *** (he was fired, (we learned later). *** Thinking we would now be assigned a less experienced surgeon, we were astonished to discover that we now would be dealing with Dr. Suk, the chairman and department head in orthopedics.

***This news was accompanied by the discovery that the head of the infectious disease department, Dr. Martin would also be assigned to my case, replacing a less experienced doctor.

So six weeks to the day, the temporary spacer was removed, and Dr. Suk *** (a board certified orthopedic surgeon, a certified plastic surgeon and certified trauma doctor) placed an entire femur implant in my leg. He had to remove more bone and he closed with the use of a pig bladder to cover the area that would not close on all the other surgeries. *** His expertise resulted in an incision that finally closed completely. This was the first time that, that had happened in over a year.

***Two days after the fifth and last surgery I was on the phone with my sister, calling from Ohio. Her, her husband, neighbors and entire church had prayed for me as well. And she said that during one session she actually saw a vision that Christ was standing next to the surgeon during the last operation. She immediately broke down and both my wife and I got very emotional as well.

*** A few minutes later, and we heard a knock on my door. A lady from the local church in Danville stopped by, prayed with my wife and I, and left saying she was drawn to my room. She could not explain why, but the draw was powerful.

Christmas Day will mark, three months since my last surgery. I don't have to go back to Dr. Suk's office for another three months. As of this writing, the infection has not returned. I know fully well that it could, and odds are that it will, but yet I feel so much better physically and emotionally knowing that positive occurrences have fallen into place.

The latest photo of my leg, taken December 23rd. 2016

Why they fell into place is answered by each of us in our own way. UnCanny Coincidence or the Power of Prayer – Feel free to let me know your thoughts with a post or message on facebook.

And have a blessed and merry Christmas and a healthy new year too. May Christ fill your needs – thanks again for all your prayers.

My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927

My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927
From Left: Son, Steve - Dad, Frank - Mom, Anastasia (Makar) - Sons; John, Mike, Frank, Chuck (Author's Dad) - Twins, Pete & Mary - Daughter, Catherine. Photo taken in Wilmore, PA