A True Story

Teresa P. Thompson

© Copyright 2002 by Teresa P. Thompson

  I recently witnessed a remarkable act of love and devotion displayed by my future father-in-law after his wife suffered a severe heart attack.

Photo of Pauline and Luke.
“To love, honor and cherish---- for better or for worse --- through sickness and in health.” These vows are spoken daily in many wedding ceremonies around the world. Although the words are beautiful, not everyone gets the opportunity to actually experience or exercise the true meaning behind them.

Three years ago Pauline Robinson was fortunate enough to witness how these vows and true love go hand-in-hand, and how they can endure even during the worst of times.

“She is going to have to be transported to Baptist Hospital,” Dr. Abdulkader Dahhan said, as he rushed frantically into the intensive care unit of the Harlan Appalachian Regional Hospital.

Pauline could hear the doctors and nurses talking as they rushed to prep her for the helicopter ride from the small hospital to the large facility in Lexington, Ky.

“Mr. Robinson, the helicopter will be here shortly to transport your wife. If you have anything to do before you start the trip down, you need to go ahead and get it done,” the nurse told Luke, Pauline’s husband.

It was obvious from the look on his face that he was expecting the same turn of events as the year before. But it was also obvious that once again he was not going to allow her to be there without him.

Only one year ago to the day the Harlan, Ky. mother of five and grandmother of seven had been transported to Baptist Hospital due to a massive heart attack, where she had spent two months hooked up to machines and IVs. The family knew that it was nothing short of a miracle that she had recovered. And subconsciously everyone was dreading the day that if and when it would happen again.

The doctors had told the family that although she had recovered, she was still frail and that her lungs and heart remained very weak. Doctors determined that the heart attack was caused from congested heart failure.

Perhaps the most important thing that had evolved from Pauline’s first brush with death was the fact that all five of her children were given the opportunity to see how their father stood beside their mother through such a time of crises.

During her two-month stay in the hospital and the three months following that she had spent in Vencor, a long term medical care facility, in Louisville, Luke had probably only left her side for the total of a week.

Each time one of the children would go to the hospital to visit they would plead with him to go home and get some rest for a few days.

“We can take care of her and besides we can call you if anything happens,” the children would say.

But Luke was determined not to let the 160 miles from Lexington to Harlan be between them if something did happen.

“What if something happened and I couldn’t get back here in time?” he would ask with tears in his eyes.

Although the children had taken turns staying with him, he would not think of leaving until Pauline was ready to come home with him. It was as though he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she would recover.

Now as the helicopter left the hospital to transport Pauline for the second time, it was obvious that Luke was preparing for the same repeat of events as before.

“I just don’t know what I will do if something happens to ‘mommy’,” Luke said, as he packed for the stay in Lexington. “I just don’t think I can make it without her.”

“We were given a miracle, Dad, the first time. And right now we just have to pray that God will give us another one,” said Tim, the youngest son.

They were granted that miracle once again. Although she had suffered another massive heart attack, Pauline was released one week later, after heart specialists implanted a defibulator inside her chest to aid in keeping her heart regulated.

“I am so thankful that I did not have to go through the same ordeal with being placed on a ventilator like I was the first time,” Pauline said.

She had been hooked up to a life preserving ventilator for the three months in Lexington and was then sent to Vencor Long Term Medical Facility to be gradually weaned off the machine. Although it had been difficult for her to learn to breath on her own, it was a task that she well accomplished during the two months at the facility.

As a spiritual person, Pauline said she believes that sometimes people have to come very close to losing someone in order for them to realize how strong they can actually be.

“I just don’t know what I would have done without Luke’s love and companionship during that time of my life,” she said. “He was determined to stay by my side and that means a lot to me, and to the children I’m sure.”

The children said the action of love and affection that their father displayed during the crises would forever be imbedded in their hearts.

“Daddy really has shown how much he loves mommy during all this,” said Luke Jr., the eldest son. “He has been wonderful through everything that she has been through. We are all pretty amazed at how he has treated her.”

Doyle, the third son, said he was shocked at the tenderness his father showed towards his mother.

“Dad is not in good health either, but he still stuck by her through the entire situation and that is something that none of us will ever forget,” Doyle said. “We were all afraid of loosing her, but I’m sure that Dad was even more so. After all she has always been Dad’s source of strength.”

Jo Ann Hoskins, of Jasper, Al., the couple’s only daughter, said that she was terrified during that crucial time that each day would be her mother’s last.

“It was terrifying to know that mommy was so sick and also knowing at the same time that I could not be there every day,” she said. “I knew that the boys would be there with her and if something happened I would get there, but it was such a comfort to know that Daddy stayed by her side the way he did.”

The children and Luke all agree that Pauline had always been the strength of their family and that losing her would be the most devastating thing they would have to face.

Pauline said that even though she is certain that she died for a few moments during the ordeal, she is also certain that God was not ready for her to leave her family.

“I can remember not being able to breath and then suddenly I could feel myself outside my body. I felt myself drift away into a beautiful garden where I remember just sitting down on a bench,” Pauline said. “I felt content and very peaceful, but I also knew that I wasn’t supposed to stay there yet. I believe that God just wanted me to rest for awhile.”

Pauline said that she is proud of her entire family for the love, patience and understanding they gave to her during her illness, but that she is especially amazed at how the man she was married to for 47 years displayed such tenderness.

“I suppose every woman wonders at some point in her marriage how her husband will hold during that kind of pressure,” Pauline said. “I guess I am just one of the fortunate ones who can say that she now knows and is very pleased with the outcome.”

Although Pauline still has minor set-backs with her health and is hospitalized several times a year, she said that she knows that it is the power of God’s love along with the love of her family that has kept her full of life.

“I still have so many things that I want to do,” Pauline said. “The most important thing to me right now is that I get to see my two youngest grandchildren grow up.”

Pauline said that she has been granted quality time with her five oldest grandchildren, but that the two younger ones need the wisdom that only a grandmother can give.

“I know that God wants me to be here a while longer so that I can have that quality time with these two smaller children,” Pauline said. “With the love and support of my wonderful family, as well as my faith, it’s a comfort to know that I will be given that time.”

Pauline said that she is also thankful that she has been granted the opportunity to be able to see the birth of her first great-grandchild.

Luke said he is thankful for his wife’s recovery and that he plans to provide her with the love and care that she needs in order to insure many more happy years together.

The couple will celebrate their golden wedding anniversary on January 31, 2003 and they both said they are looking forward to sharing that special event with their family.

I live in Harlan, Kentucky.  I am a former newspaper reporter and  the mother of three daughters  from 21 years to three years old.  I enjoy writing short stories---both fiction and nonfiction.

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