During this time of quarantine, my wife and I made some short films with my family. I placed the three-part series below. I hope you enjoy!
Episode 1 is complete, and the script for episode 2 is finished as well. We begin shooting today. This is a project that we are using for schooling our children at home during this time of quarantine. We also like acting, editing, and the arts. So this has been a win-win for our family. It keeps us busy. We teach them to act, and they are getting a bit of experience of how film is created. So, if you haven't watched the short film, please take a look at it, and we hope you enjoy.
The last few years of my family’s life have been stressful. I have written about some of it here, here, and here. A brief summary is as follows:
In 2018, my wife was diagnosed with cancer. After several surgeries and innumerable doctor appointments, we moved on with precautionary medicine (Immunotherapy). In 2019, she was hospitalized for nearly a week in an effort to discover what caused her sudden onset of double vision. (Did the cancer return was the question that the doctors wondered.) We found out it was a reaction to her immunotherapy. As soon as we returned home, while we were visiting friends, a turkey flew through our front window and ransacked our house. Yes, you read that right, a turkey flew through our window and ransacked our house. I spent 2-3 hours trying to get that bird out that night.
We had one heck of a mess to clean up.
By August of that year, too much financial damage had been done (car repairs, cancer, doctor appointments, a rotting bathroom floor, etc…). We had to declare bankruptcy.
Yes, the cancer and other burdens of life had caused irreparable financial harm. We spent months struggling through the discouraging and sometimes shameful feelings of bankruptcy. About that time, we also found out we were pregnant with our fifth child. It was a surprise to say the least. She was a gloriously unexpected surprise. What were we going to do with another child? Where were we going to put her? That still is a question that hovers over us. Our house is ridiculously small, and still is.
During the pregnancy, Liz was diagnosed with severe ICP (intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy). Her liver was not functioning properly and the risk of stillbirth was high. She endured a horrible pregnancy and many sleepless nights that caused so much stress and medical problems that she was considered high risk. We had to deliver at Crouse Hospital in Syracuse. While there, my wife received an epidural. It backfired. Her heart stopped beating. She flatlined. Fortunately, she was revived and the baby was taken out healthy in an emergency C-section. We came home on a Thursday, and on that Saturday, the quarantine of New York began.Through all of this, I finally learned something I always had known.
Life is out of my control.
That was an extremely scary realization. You realize that anything can happen and you can’t do a thing about it. Your wife can die while undergoing a routine medical procedure. A spot on the face can be cancer. A cough can turn deadly. Though the realization of having no control is scary, it can also be freeing.
How, you may ask.
Because I have a God who is in control. What does that mean for you or me in “real” life? Well, for me, it means that I will do my best to trust in Him and no longer willingly give in to the fear that has plagued me all my life. Strangely, before 2018, every day was a day I battled fear. I feared everything – every illness, sickness, muscle pain. Secretly, and my wife can attest, my life was devoted to fear. Strangely, however, it wasn’t until after I experienced these horrible, stressful things that this obsession with fear began to subside.
This brings us to today - the Age of Corona. I have read countless articles out there and you can see, almost feel, the fear that rages in the outside world. It is panic inducing. And it is in times like these that the real character of people are revealed.
I, with the help of God, have committed myself not to give in to the fear. I will not be afraid. I have taken all the necessary measures, even resorting to wearing a mask and gloves while grocery shopping. Yes, I have taken this disease seriously. I don’t go out unnecessarily. I, willingly, as a free man, follow the advice of the government. (I do have a problem with dictates from said government, even dictates for “my own good.” That is another subject.)
I respect the opinions of people that are different than mine, but in the end, I must follow the dictates of my own beliefs. This is what frees me. I ask myself, “Do you believe the Bible?” If I do, then I must believe the following:
“A man’s days are numbered. You know the number of his months. He cannot live longer than the time You have set.” Job 14:5.
So what does that mean? Does that mean that if I forget to scrub my hands with Purell I will drop dead? Does that mean if I pick up the wrong jar of Ragu I will catch this deadly disease? Now your answer may differ than mine, but I say, “No!” It does not mean that. My days have been written down. The hairs of my head have been numbered (Luke 12:7). Now, do I go out and lick doorknobs? No, but does it matter? If I am to die of the Coronavirus, there is little I can do (Acts 26:14).
If I am to die in a car accident, to whom can I protest? I can wear a seatbelt or never drive again. Those are my options - the difference between taking a precaution and living in fear. Precaution says, “Wear a seatbelt.” Fear says, “Don’t you dare drive.” I will do what I can to protect myself from a car accident, but that does not mean I will never drive again. The same goes with the coronavirus. I must acknowledge that God is in control, and I will not give into fear. I cannot give into it. I have lived there for so long and it is a dark, dark world. I cannot, nor will not, return.
So, yes, life is dangerous. It always has been. It is so dangerous, in fact, that you and I will definitely die one day. There is nothing that can stop that. Stepping out your front door is full of risk, even when there was no Corona to Purell away.
What does this all mean?
So, while I have taken this virus seriously, I do believe, on the other hand, the world has taken it too seriously. In 2004, an article by David Ropeik was published. It was called “The Consequences of Fear,” and in it, he states, “We must accept that being worried or not worried enough has real health consequences that need to be understood, quantified, and incorporated into risk management.” (I encourage you to read over it. Much of it will seem very familiar to what is happening now.)
Speaking from experience, I know the hazards of worrying too much. I see the signs and symptoms of it. My body has experienced it. That is why I believe we, as a country and world, are worrying too much. We are giving in to fear. Never have we shut down our country the way we have the last few months. I can’t even get my cats vaccinated. My wife’s CT scans are delayed. We are ignoring known diseases over the fear of an unknown one. We are ignoring diseases of considerably higher death rates over one that is considerably lower. Real medical issues are being brushed away all because fear has taken over the world.
This is much deeper than precaution. This has devolved into a sort of hysteria. Now, that doesn’t mean that people won’t die or get sick from this virus. They will. Frankly, even I could. But my death or my loved one’s death from this disease wouldn’t change the fact that this is nothing to fear. It wouldn’t change the fact that God is in control. If you are a Christian, you are commanded not to fear. What does that look like for each of us?
Now, I don’t write this judgmentally nor to cast aspersions on people. Believe me, I have struggled with fear all my life. I write this, however, in hope and truth. God’s word states, “In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” Job 12:10. This should comfort you. That is its purpose. Take it from me, fear can be a far more damaging virus. It has the power to take your life and your freedom.
“Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” James 4:14
Life is wonderful and fragile. That truth hit home on Monday, March 9th, more so than ever. There are others out there that can speak to the truth of this better than I can. They have experienced pain and hurt at such a deep level that it is hard to fathom.
For the past year and a half, my family, and more specifically, my wife has battled cancer. That is such a fearful disease that it will change anyone who experiences it. When someone is confronted with death in times like that it is, unfortunately, to be expected. While that is difficult in and of itself, there are other times when the threat of death comes upon you most unexpectedly. Last Monday was one of those times. Though countless women have faced death through the ages while giving birth, it is not as common in this country in this day and age.
“It won’t happen to me” is the typical thought.
While I rejoice the birth of my fifth daughter, Madeline Jane, I want to share with everyone the miracle and near tragedy of Monday, March 9th, 2020.
Liz, my wife, has faced many painful procedures over the past year and a half due to her cancer diagnosis in the fall of 2018. She has also given birth to four girls: two with an epidural and two without one. In all, she was tired of pain and procedures. To be honest, I cannot blame her in the least. Being poked and prodded, even if it’s for your own good, is tiresome. So, with baby number five, Liz was sure she wanted an epidural.
The last five months, she had battled ICP, a disease of the liver that affects pregnant woman. It is a difficult malady to endure for that long. Knowing this, and with the increase in her liver levels, she had a scheduled induction so that the baby would survive. (A stillbirth can be a consequence of ICP.) So, this was no light matter.
Now, before an epidural is given, the anesthesiologist goes through the list of possible side effects. We understood them and agreed to the risks. Liz has had two previously and neither one had been a problem. Unfortunately, this is where it all began.
Around 12:30 PM, the anesthesiologist entered the room to begin the epidural. I stood in front of Liz to support her, as there might be times that it was painful. She had done it before and handled it really well. During the procedure, the anesthesiologist and nurse would ask her a series of questions to make sure that everything was okay.
“Can you wiggle your toes?”
Liz assured them that she could. I glanced down and watched as she did so. This whole time, I was standing next to the heart monitor. Her heart rate was consistently in the 70-80 range. I watched as the paper printed the the beats.
By this time, the anesthesiologist had some trouble threading the epidural and asked the attending doctor to assist. By the time the attending doctor entered the room, the epidural was done and completed.
Liz could still wiggle her toes.
The anesthesiologist said that her legs will start to feel heavy, and that that was normal. The sensation soon spread through Liz’s legs. Unfortunately, it didn’t stop there.
Soon, she began telling us that it was difficult for her to hold herself upright, and Liz began to tip over involuntarily. The nurse assured her that we had her, which we did. When Liz began to tip over, I grabbed her in my arms and held her upright.
Mere seconds passed and Liz said that it was becoming difficult for her breathe. The nurse tried to calm her, but Liz was calm. In fact, she was too calm. She could barely speak.
Again, Liz said she couldn’t breathe. This time, the words were barely audible. The nurse asked, “Are you all right?”
Liz, whose eyes were closing, shook her head, “No.”
I can literally start feeling my heart thumping in my chest.
Once again, Liz says, “I can’t breathe.”
Her eyes close. The nurse says, “Stay with me, Liz. Liz!”
Liz’s eyes snap open, but she isn’t there. Her eyes are open, but she is gone. I’m not sure if she sees me. According to the nurse later that afternoon, Liz looked at her with an “I’m dying” look.
By this time, Liz is mouthing that she can’t breathe. The nurse pulls out an oxygen mask and cups it around Liz’s mouth. It says that Liz’s oxygen is 97 percent, but in the next second it begins dropping rapidly. I watch the monitor. 96. 95. 93. She is quickly losing oxygen.
The nurse hits the emergency button.
In the next second, the door slams open. One after another, doctors and nurses rush in. Mere seconds pass and twelve to fifteen people are already in the room.
My heart feels like it is going to break through my chest. “Is this real? Am I going to have to tell my children today that their mom is dead?”
I’m trying to think. I say quick prayers. “Please, God. Don’t let her die. I can’t do this alone. Please God.”
Then I hear a word that, by the grace of God, I didn’t fully comprehend at the moment. One nurse said, “She’s flatlined.” My eyes went to that same heart monitor from before. I can see it now, just as I did then. The squiggly, scribbled line was straight. There was no movement whatsoever. There was no electrical activity in her heart. Liz was lying lifeless on the hospital bed.
Liz went into cardiac arrest.
I’m trying not to cry. Why? I don’t know. For all intents and purposes, my wife had died. The full impact of this was not known to me at this moment. I almost became stupid. I never had felt so powerless, so impotent. I couldn’t even be near her to hold her hand.
Epinephrine was the next word I remember hearing. The doctors were talking to me at times, but I don’t remember what they said. Even now, I can remember their looks, but not their words. At this point, what could I do? I could barely even pray.
A nurse looked to me and said, “Do you have a family or friends here?”
I remember saying shaking my head and saying, “No.”
I then saw a text on my phone from a friend that said, “How are things going” (Don’t answer if you don’t want to.) Praying for you guys.”
I text back, “Pray. Somethings happening. Something not good.”
I shoot this text out to some family and friends. Even that was difficult.
One nurse says that the baby’s heart rate had dropped in half. She is losing oxygen because Liz is losing oxygen. They talk to me and tell me that they are taking her to the OR. One nurse says that she will stay with “the husband.”
How stupid I must’ve looked. How confused I was. I did not know if I would ever see my wife alive again. I did not know if I would ever see my baby alive at all.
I can feel the adrenaline. My hands are shaking. The nurse is asking me questions. It is difficult for me to answer without my voice shaking.
Is my wife dead? Is my baby dead? These are the thoughts I have to deal with. These are the possible realities that I must face. On a day I should be celebrating life, I may have to mourn death instead.
Even now, it sometimes becomes too difficult for me to think about. I can still hear my wife’s gasp, “I can’t breathe.” I can still see her shake her head when she is asked, “Are you all right?” I can still hear the nurse’s declaration, “She’s flatlined.”
Despite all that, the Word of God says, “In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” Job 12:10.
It is only a matter of minutes before I find out that Madeline Jane is born. It is over an hour and a half later when I find out that Liz has truly recovered and is breathing on her own.
The Grace of God is exceedingly rich! He gave breath to my wife, Liz, and my newest daughter, Madeline Jane.
Praise the Lord!
Scott Keen is the author of three young adult fantasy novels, Scar of the Downers, Rise of the Branded, and War of the Downer King.