There are some things Lonny Wand does not remember about his oh-so-close brush with death. The ambulance ride to the hospital, time spent in the emergency room, and three of his twelve days in the intensive care unit at the hospital are just a few examples of what he does not remember. He also cannot pinpoint the moment when he was seconds from death, but it likely was shortly before an ambulance arrived at his home and the paramedics inserted a plastic tube into his trachea to open his airway so he could breathe. But it’s what he does remember that changes life now and while he wouldn’t ask for or want to repeat those experiences, he might not trade them either.
Lonny had surgery December 15th to fuse together three vertebrae in his neck to fix a two decade-old problem. In his typical fashion, he chose to have surgery performed on that date so he could recover over Christmas and miss as little work as possible. Brother Wand, which is a factious name, serves as an Associate Minister in the Tulsa area.
Trouble began just before midnight on the 16th during his first night home from the hospital when a hematoma near the incision swelled and cut off his air supply. Realizing he was in serious trouble, Lonny dialed 911, and then stood out in the street in front of his home to flag down the ambulance. As breathing became increasingly more difficult, he went back in the house, handed the phone to his wife, Bonnie, and passed out on the living room floor. EMS workers opened his airway using the smallest tube in their supplies. They later told Lonny that he was seconds form death and that they don’t typically have that small of a tube in their medical supplies. Many hospitals don’t even stock them.
As Bonnie drove to the hospital, she repeated to herself “God’s in control! God’s in control! God’s in control!” Trauma doctors put Lonny on a ventilator and took him straight to surgery while his wife called family, friends, and church family for prayer and emotional support. Thousands of people responded with e-mails, cards, flowers and personal visits to the hospital to pray with Bonnie about her husband. The Wand family gathered at the hospital. Sons Shawn and Don arrived from Arizona, while daughter Wanda kept watch at the hospital and cared for her mother.
That began a thirteen day stay in the ICU. Lonny remembers nothing from the first three days when he was sedated, but he does remember waking up, trying to focus on the big clock on the wall and over hearing the doctors discussing his case. When he heard, “50-50 chance he won’t come out of this” he said an inner siren sounded, and he grabbed a white board to write out goodbyes to his family and friends. That was the hardest –and most memorable—moments of the ordeal, when this normally stoic, former Army General, poured out his heart. “It was the first time any of us saw dad weak and vulnerable,” Wanda said. “The worst thing became the coolest thing for our family as we connected on a different level in love and commitment.
All went better than expected, and Lonny left the recovery room after the operation wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Christ-filled New Year! In his ICU room he asked for his laptop and a phone and began counting the days when he could leave and get back to “normal” life, but there were other health hurdles to overcome before that would happen. The doctors found two blood clots in his right leg, and his blood pressure and heart rate spiked.
Time spent captive in the ICU turned out to be life-changing. Lonny talked to his children and wife for hours about important issues in life and what needs to be done after he dies. Lonny thought about what he read in the book called “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan. The book talks about having a passionate relationship with God, and Lonny began to worry about whether he had led his children to the church rather than to the Lord Jesus Christ. His children assured him that he led them to Christ Jesus.
Stacks of cards, letters, flowers with notes of love and home-made meals, made the senior minister of the church to make this observation about Lonny’s ordeal. “One thing does thrill me about this situation,” he said. “People have had an opportunity to express their love for Lonny, and even though he’s not a touchy-feely kind of person, all these expressions of love have meant a lot to him. What an example he has shown of how retirement should be regarded as a time of service for Christ and not self-indulgence.”
When Lonny returned to work at church, he put a clock on his office wall similar to the one in the ICU room at the hospital. He said it serves as a reminder that he’s on borrowed time. He plans to go through all his commitments and choose those with eternal significance. “God has given us 86,400 seconds in a day,” Lonny said. “I got a restart. Christ raised Lazarus from the dead, but eventually, he died. Someday I’ll die, too. The question is what I’m going to do with the remaining time He’s has given me. While I wouldn’t want to go through this again, it has drawn me closer to God and my family, and it has made me reconsider what’s important in my life.”
Would you like to hear about Lonny’s rehabilitation after the hospital released him? If so, please call me personally at (918) 665-7004, and if I receive enough calls that reflect a genuine interest, I will then send Tulsa Today ‘the rest of the story’ of Lonny Wand’s adventure. Sincerely, waiting to hear from you!