MU Vice Chancellor Gary Ward shares the recent implications of heart disease on the lives of his daughter and granddaughter.
Editor’s Note: On Friday, September 27, hundreds of women gathered at the Atrium for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women Luncheon. While we heard about the threat of heart disease for women in our city and country, Gary Ward, vice chancellor for operations at MU, and his family, were personally dealing with the implications of heart disease on the lives of his daughter and soon-to-be granddaughter. This is their story.
As I reflect over the last several days, I can’t help but be humbled by the blessings. I’m not talking about the obvious blessing of my daughter, Lauren, and my new granddaughter, Clara, still being alive. I am talking about the blessing that began on July 3, 1989.
On that day in the wee hours of the morning, my wife Sandy woke me up telling me her water broke. We were prepared! We grabbed our go-bag and headed to Mercy Hospital in Oklahoma City. Normally a 45-minute drive, it didn’t take nearly that much time on July 3.
Prior to that day, Sandy and I attended several baby classes and one of the classes got into exactly what goes on in the delivery room. There was a presentation about the order of techniques and equipment the doctor would use if needed. I remember the discussion of moving the baby around and so on. What really got my attention was what happens when things don’t go as planned – forceps, vacuum extraction, and C-section. I was assured these things were seldom required.
On that July morning, Lauren refused to work with the delivery doctor. Every time he positioned her for delivery, she repositioned herself. A comfortable position has always been very important to Lauren.
As time went on, it was apparent that Lauren was under stress and needed to be delivered. Forceps were not successful and the vacuum was attached. That, too, was not successful. The doctor and the nurses were clearly concerned. Sandy wasn’t feeling anything, and because of the hushed tones, really wasn’t aware of what was unfolding.
I asked the doctor about C-section and he told me it was too late. The baby needed to be delivered now. Lauren was delivered after much back and forth with the equipment. She was blue and not breathing. One of the nurses said ‘it’s a girl’ and Sandy was celebrating the daughter we both wanted. I feared Lauren wouldn’t survive. I had no idea how I was going to tell Sandy our baby was dead.
Meanwhile, in the corner of the room, a very large group of docs and nurses were working on Lauren. To this day, I have no idea where they came from. One moment it was Sandy’s doc and a couple of nurses and the next moment a whole team was assembled in the room.
And then I heard a baby cry. Our baby!
Lauren was whisked away to NICU before Sandy even laid eyes on her daughter. Lauren was in critical condition, but our baby girl was alive. As the hours went on, Lauren was doing better. I was invited in the NICU and met my daughter.
She was not the beautiful girl she is today. My first thought was she looked like she had gone a round with Joe Frazer and lost badly. None of her facial parts were in the correct place and she was covered in blood. I almost lost it there, but somehow kept it together. To my horror, the young NICU nurse asked me if I wanted to give Lauren a bath. I did and it was at that moment I was smitten.
After some time, I went back to Sandy and reported on her beautiful daughter. Yes, I lied.
On July 3, 1989, I was 28 years old and scared to death. I was worried about my wife and worried about my daughter. The doctors assured me Sandy was fine, but she had a very difficult delivery and recovery would take some time.
They also told me Lauren’s facial parts would rearrange themselves to the proper locations. I’m not proud of it, but I had to get out of there. Sandy’s parents were there and I came up with a reason why I had to go home to get something. I had held myself together through all the previous events, but I could tell I wasn’t going to be able to for much longer.
I got in the car and headed home. Within minutes I broke down. Praise God I didn’t wreck. It was during this time I made a deal with God. I knew then that trying to make a deal with God wasn’t possible. For those reading this with a personal relationship with God, you fully understand God doesn’t make deals. He makes promises. Regardless, He let me think I was making a deal.
Here was the deal: I told God if he would let Lauren live, I would not get in his way if he wanted to send her into the mission field at an early age, even if it meant her moving to Africa. While I knew then and know now, God does not make deals, but he did hold me to my promise.
Lauren and Sandy were fine and we went home and started our family. Fourteen months later we were blessed with a son – Matt. Matt’s birth was uneventful, but it was at his birth that I dedicated my family to Christ and committed to try my best to be a father worthy of having Sandy, Lauren, and Matt.
Chest Pains and Life Flights
The years went by and the kids grew up. An incredible young woman and an incredible young man. I have been blessed, greatly blessed, and am so appreciative to God for the blessings.
Lauren has always loved people and people love her. After college, she got into retail and finally into private banking. This has put her in touch with many people in the Columbia and Jefferson City area.
On Friday, September 27, Lauren was 32 weeks pregnant with baby Clara and in Springfield, Missouri, for a friend’s wedding shower. She started having chest pains and ended up in the ER suffering a heart attack.
They life-flighted her to Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St Louis where she was whisked away to the cardiac ICU. She and Clara were in serious trouble. However, we were in one of the best cardiology hospitals in the nation. That was comforting, but our hope is not in man. Our hope is in God and his son and their use of man for their purpose. Yes, being at BJC was great, but what we needed at that moment was prayer.
Sandy and I got the word out and asked for prayer. Oh my, word got out and out fast. Hundreds of people were praying for my Lauren and Clara and the numbers of folks praying continued to grow. I’ll never know the numbers, but it was in the thousands. People from coast to coast and even a brother and others in Japan.
Lauren and Clara’s lives were spared in those early hours of the emergency. I fully realize that modern medicine and all the docs and nurses played a major role in that, but I now truly know in my mind and heart that all the prayers sent up to the great healer were what saved them that day.
At this point, Lauren is still in the cardiac ICU and Clara has not been born. The decision was made to deliver Clara on Wednesday, October 2.
Coming Full Circle
On September 30, Sandy and I were staying at the hotel connected to the hospital. While still in bed and very early in the morning, the events of July 3, 1989, ran through my head. Very quickly, but very detailed. Including, the deal.
I really didn’t think much of it. My daughter was in trouble and I just subconsciously thought of her birthday. My next thoughts are what shook me. The number of people praying for my family! Many of those people I know do not have a personal relationship with the Lord, but they were praying for Lauren anyway.
Again, Lauren loves people and people love Lauren. So much so that they were willing to put their unbelief aside and pray for her. It dawned on me at that moment that God was using my family to reach others. To create relationships with those that do not even think he exists. When one prays to the Lord, a relationship is being created. Oh, what an honor, what a blessing, that God is using us for his glory. I was overcome with thankfulness.
Immediately Sandy sat up and said, “Can you imagine the glow on God’s face with all these praying to Him?” Sandy and I talked, and an incredible sense of calm came over us. We still don’t know God’s plan for Lauren and Clara, but we know who is in control.
Later, Sandy and I went to eat at a restaurant across from the hospital. While eating, a realization about what was going on hit me. God had told me what was going on before daybreak, but I didn’t initially see the connection to the past. At the restaurant it hit me like a lightning bolt. There was no mistaking what he wanted me to know. It was the deal.
It was at that moment, with tears rolling down my face, that I fully understood what was going on. God didn’t call Lauren to the mission field as a teenager, nor move her to Africa. God called Lauren to the mission field in Columbia, Missouri, and many other places around the country that are hearing her and Clara’s story.
God created Lauren to love people and people to love Lauren. God allowed Lauren and Clara to go through a terrible event. An event so horrible that even those that wanted nothing to do with God bowed a head or maybe even bent a knee praying for Lauren. In doing so, the door opened for God to reveal himself to them.
We will never know the number of people who are praying for Lauren and who may enter into a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, but without a doubt we trust he will call some. What an honor; what a blessing!
I thought I made a deal with God 30 years ago. God doesn’t make deals as he doesn’t have to. It’s all his and he does what he wants for his glory. It wasn’t a deal he made with me; it was a promise. That promise was he would bless my family. This he has done. And we praise his name for those blessings, but even more for sacrificing his only son for me and my family and you, too. Whew! What a God, what a savior.
As I write this, we do not know what will happen to Lauren and Clara. The next few days will be a challenge and we continue to ask for prayers and we continue to question the medical teams. We feel confident God has his protective hands on the girls, but we also know God’s plans are not always what we want, but we accept the fact He is in control and it’s all for his glory.